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Thresholds of Climate Change in Ecosystems
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Editors: Vicente Orostegui
Book Description:
As defined in this book, an ecological threshold is the point at which there is an abrupt change in an ecosystem quality, property, or phenomenon, or where small changes in one or more external conditions produce large and persistent responses in an ecosystem. Ecological thresholds occur when external factors, positive feedbacks, or
nonlinear instabilities in a system cause changes to propagate in a domino-like fashion that is potentially irreversible. Once an ecological threshold is crossed, the ecosystem in question is not likely to return to its previous state. Over the past three decades, climate change has become a recognized driver of ecosystem change. Much ecosystems research focuses on enhancing understanding of climate change impacts on ecosystems and in developing the capability to predict the potential impacts of future climate change. The potential for sudden, unanticipated shifts in ecosystem dynamics make resource planning, preparation, and management intensely difficult. These sudden changes to ecosystems and the goods and services they provide are not well understood, but they are extremely important if natural resource managers are to succeed in developing adaptation strategies in a changing world. This book provides an overview of what is known about ecological thresholds and where they are likely to occur. It also identifies those areas where research is most needed to improve knowledge and understand the uncertainties regarding them. The focus of this book is on North American ecosystem threshold changes and what they mean for human society.

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Table of Contents:

Federal Executive Team

Letter to Congress

Author Team for this Report



Recommended Citation

Executive Summary


Examples of Ecosystem Thresholds


Chapter 1 — Introduction and Background pp.1-6

1.1 The Problem of Sudden Change in Ecological Systems

1.2 The Response of the Climate Change Community

1.3 The Goal of SAP 4.2

1.4 Standard Terms

Chapter 2 — Ecological Thresholds pp.7-16

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Early Development

2.3 Current Discussions of Threshold Phenomena

2.4 Ecological Thresholds Defined for SAP 4.2

2.5 Factors That Influence Resilience

2.6 The Bottom Line

Chapter 3 — Case Studies pp.17-46

Case Study 1: Ecological Thresholds in Alaska

Case Study 2. The Mid-Continent Prairie Pothole Region: Threshold
Responses to Climate Change

Case Study 3. Broad-Scale Forest Die-Back as a Threshold Response to
Climate Change in the Southwestern United States

Case Study 4. Thresholds in Climate Change for Coral-Reef Ecosystem

Chapter 4 — Examples of Threshold Change in Ecosystems pp.47-56

4.1 Background

4.2 Example of Thresholds from the Past

4.3 Temperature Increases Are Pushing Ecosystems Towards Thresholds

4.3.1 Climate Interactions Drive Ecosystems to Thresholds

4.3.2 Climate Variability Increases Likelihood of Threshold Shifts

4.3.3 Other Human Stressors and Climate Change

4.3.4 Ecosystem Vulnerability and Climate Change

Chapter 5 — What Can Be Done? pp.57-70

5.1 Integration of Management and Research

5.1.1 Need for Conceptual Models

5.1.2 Scaling

5.1.3 Applying Models from Other Disciplines

5.2 Adaptive Management to Increase Resilience

5.2.1 Role of Monitoring

5.2.2 Role of Experiments

5.3 Management by Coping

5.3.1 Reducing Multiple Stressors

5.3.2 Triage

5.3.3 System-Level Planning and Policy

5.3.4 Capacity Building and Awareness

5.4 Summary

Chapter 6 — Summary and Science Recommendations pp.71-78


Science Recommendations





References Cited pp.79-106

Appendix A—Glossary pp.107-114

Contact Information

Index pp.115-122

      Climate Change and its Causes, Effects and Prediction
   Binding: Hardcover
   Pub. Date: 2010
   Pages: pp.122
   ISBN: 978-1-60741-487-2
   Status: AV
Status Code Description
AN Announcing
FM Formatting
PP Page Proofs
FP Final Production
EP Editorial Production
PR At Prepress
AP At Press
AV Available
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Thresholds of Climate Change in Ecosystems