Slow recovery from local disturbances as an indicator for loss of ecosystem resilience
van de Leemput, Ingrid A.
van Nes, Egbert H.
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
A range of indicators have been proposed for identifying the elevated risk of critical transitions in ecosystems. Most indicators are based on the idea that critical slowing down can be inferred from changes in statistical properties of natural fluctuations and spatial patterns. However, identifying these signals in nature has remained challenging. An alternative approach is to infer changes in resilience from differences in standardized experimental perturbations. However, system-wide experimental perturbations are rarely feasible. Here we evaluate the potential to infer the risk of large-scale systemic transitions from local experimental or natural perturbations. We use models of spatially explicit landscapes to illustrate how recovery rates upon small-scale perturbations decrease as an ecosystem approaches a tipping point for a large-scale collapse. We show that the recovery trajectory depends on: (1) the resilience of the ecosystem at large scale, (2) the dispersal rate of organisms, and (3) the scale of the perturbation. In addition, we show that recovery of natural disturbances in a heterogeneous environment can potentially function as an indicator of resilience of a large-scale ecosystem. Our analyses reveal fundamental differences between large-scale weak and local-scale strong perturbations, leading to an overview of opportunities and limitations of the use of local disturbance-recovery experiments. Show more
Journal / seriesEcosystems
Pages / Article No.
Subjectresilience; critical transition; recovery rate; alternative states; catastrophic shift; pulse experiment; landscape ecology
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