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Analyzing Abrupt Ecosystem Change

January 24, 2012
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Abrupt ecosystem transitions--major changes brought on when a critical environmental threshold is passed (such the abrupt shift from an oligotropic lake (clear blue) to a eutrophic lake (muddy green))--can significantly and irreversibly alter an ecosystem. Although such shifts are a major concern in this time of rapid environmental change, short-term data constraints have thus far prevented a common understanding of the processes leading to these shifts. A new Ecosphere study co-authored by HF Senior Ecologist Aaron Ellison, "Analysis of abrupt transitions in ecological systems," uses a standardized approach to investigate abrupt ecosystem transitions that have occurred over the past 60 years at four Long-Term Ecological Research Sites. The case studies presented come from the Pacific Ocean, the Chihuahuan Desert, and the Western Antarctic Peninsula. 

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