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Ambio. 2011 May;40(3):256-63.

When ecosystem services crash: preparing for big, fast, patchy climate change.

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School of Natural Resources and the Environment, Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0043, USA.


Assessments of adaptation options generally focus on incremental, homogeneous ecosystem responses to climate even though climate change impacts can be big, fast, and patchy across a region. Regional drought-induced tree die-off in semiarid woodlands highlights how an ecosystem crash fundamentally alters most ecosystem services and poses management challenges. Building on previous research showing how choice of location is linked to adaptive capacity and vulnerability, we developed a framework showing how the options for retaining desired ecosystem services in the face of sudden crashes depend on how portable the service is and whether the stakeholder is flexible with regard to the location where they receive their services. Stakeholders using portable services, or stakeholders who can move to other locations to obtain services, may be more resilient to ecosystem crashes. Our framework suggests that entering into cooperative networks with regionally distributed stakeholders is key to building resilience to big, fast, patchy crashes.

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