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A nucleation framework for transition between alternate states: short‐circuiting barriers to ecosystem recovery


Michaels, Theo K; Eppinga, Maarten B; Bever, James D (2020). A nucleation framework for transition between alternate states: short‐circuiting barriers to ecosystem recovery. Ecology, 101(9):e03099.

Abstract

The theory of alternate stable states provides an explanation for rapid ecosystem degradation, yielding important implications for ecosystem conservation and restoration. However, utilizing this theory to initiate transitions from degraded to desired ecosystem states remains a significant challenge. Applications of the alternative stable states framework may currently be impeded by a mismatch between local‐scale driving processes and landscape‐scale emergent system transitions. We show how nucleation theory provides an elegant bridge between local‐scale positive feedback mechanisms and landscape‐scale transitions between alternate stable ecosystem states. Geometrical principles can be used to derive a critical patch radius: a spatially explicit, local description of an unstable equilibrium point. This insight can be used to derive an optimal patch size that minimizes the cost of restoration, and to provide a framework to measure the resilience of desired ecosystem states to the synergistic effects of disturbance and environmental change.

Abstract

The theory of alternate stable states provides an explanation for rapid ecosystem degradation, yielding important implications for ecosystem conservation and restoration. However, utilizing this theory to initiate transitions from degraded to desired ecosystem states remains a significant challenge. Applications of the alternative stable states framework may currently be impeded by a mismatch between local‐scale driving processes and landscape‐scale emergent system transitions. We show how nucleation theory provides an elegant bridge between local‐scale positive feedback mechanisms and landscape‐scale transitions between alternate stable ecosystem states. Geometrical principles can be used to derive a critical patch radius: a spatially explicit, local description of an unstable equilibrium point. This insight can be used to derive an optimal patch size that minimizes the cost of restoration, and to provide a framework to measure the resilience of desired ecosystem states to the synergistic effects of disturbance and environmental change.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 September 2020
Deposited On:11 Dec 2020 12:34
Last Modified:12 Dec 2020 21:00
Publisher:Ecological Society of America
ISSN:1939-9170
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.3099

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