Approaching tipping points: a focussed review of indicators and relevance to managing intertidal ecosystems
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Abrupt ecosystem regime shifts from one state to another can occur in response to environmental change (such as climate/sea level change). Detecting an approaching tipping point may help management to adapt to or mitigate the effects of catastrophic change. Intertidal wetlands are one of the most vulnerable ecosystems, faced with climate, sea level and anthropogenic changes. Early warning indicators of regime shifts that may be evident include slowing recovery rates from perturbation, increased autocorrelation and variance, changing skewness and self-organised patchiness. We examine these indicators using intertidal examples and discuss the limitations. Managers cannot adapt to or mitigate the effects of state shifts over tipping points if there is no way to detect early warning signals. This detection is highly dependent on system-specific modelling and requires understanding of alternate stable states theory and its application in large, complex ecosystems.
Wetlands Ecology and Management
© 2014 Springer Netherlands. This is an electronic version of an article published in Wetlands Ecology and Management, October 2015, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 791–802. Wetlands Ecology and Management is available online at: http://link.springer.com/ with the open URL of your article.