Send to

Choose Destination
Nature. 2001 Oct 11;413(6856):591-6.

Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems.

Author information

Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management, Wageningen University, PO Box 8080, NL-6700 DD Wageningen, The Netherlands.


All ecosystems are exposed to gradual changes in climate, nutrient loading, habitat fragmentation or biotic exploitation. Nature is usually assumed to respond to gradual change in a smooth way. However, studies on lakes, coral reefs, oceans, forests and arid lands have shown that smooth change can be interrupted by sudden drastic switches to a contrasting state. Although diverse events can trigger such shifts, recent studies show that a loss of resilience usually paves the way for a switch to an alternative state. This suggests that strategies for sustainable management of such ecosystems should focus on maintaining resilience.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center