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Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems.

Nature

Trees, Stochastic Processes, Oceans and Seas, Models, Biological, Fresh Water, Ecosystem, Desert Climate, Conservation of Natural Resources, Cnidaria, Animals

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      Abstract

      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.

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      Most cited references 50

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            Author and article information

            Journal
            10.1038/35098000
            11595939

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