Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems

  title={Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems},
  author={Marten Scheffer and Stephen R. Carpenter and Jonathan A. Foley and Carl Folke and Brian Walker},
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… 

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Macroalgae, nutrients and phase shifts on coral reefs: scientific issues and management consequences for the Great Barrier Reef

  • L. McCook
  • Environmental Science
    Coral Reefs
  • 1999
It is concluded that nutrient overloads can contribute to reef degradation, but that they are unlikely to lead to phase shifts simply by enhancing algal growth rates and hence allowing overgrowth of corals, unless herbivory is unusually or artificially low.

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