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Steering feedbacks toward healthier marine ecosystems
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology. (Natural resource management)
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology. (Natural resource management)
Stockholm University, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Baltic Nest Institute.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology. (Ekotoxicology)
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Marine ecosystem decline is accelerating. At some point degradation may pass a tipping point beyond which ecosystems become trapped in alternative degraded states, as a result of changes in critical feedbacks. Self-reinforcing feedbacks pose a major challenge for managers and policy-makers seeking remedial actions to curb the marine crisis. Here we synthesize the dynamics of critical feedbacks of the degraded states in five socio-economically important marine ecosystems; coral reefs, kelp forests, seagrass beds, shallow unvegetated soft-bottom habitats, and coastal pelagic food webs. A better understanding of the way human actions influence the strength and direction of feedbacks, how different feedbacks interact and at what scales they operate, is crucial for successful implementation of marine ecosystem management. We advocate a critical-feedback management approach that ventures beyond traditionally discipline boundaries, as an essential element of marine ecosystem management.

National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-34306OAI: diva2:284517
Available from: 2010-01-07 Created: 2010-01-07 Last updated: 2013-07-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Upholding the coral loop: Resilience, alternative stable states and feedbacks in coral reefs
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Upholding the coral loop: Resilience, alternative stable states and feedbacks in coral reefs
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Coral reefs are suffering unprecedented declines in coral cover and species diversity. These changes are often associated with  substantial shifts in community structure to new dominant organisms. Ultimately, these “phase shifts” can be persistent and very difficult to return from. Building insurance against degradation and decreasing the likelihood of reefs undergoing shifts to undesirable states will require sustainable management practices that uphold coral reef resilience. This thesis consists of five papers that contribute new knowledge useful for managing the resilience of coral reefs, and other marine ecosystems. Paper I shows how the morphology of natural substrate (dead coral colonies) can significantly influence coral recruitment patterns. Paper II focuses on larval lipid levels, a key determinant of coral dispersal potential, in a common Caribbean coral (Favia fragum). It shows that i) lipid levels exhibit a significant, non-linear reduction throughout the larval release period of F. fragum and ii) exposure to a common pollutant (copper) could potentially lead to a more rapid lipid consumption in the larvae. Paper III presents a broader analysis of the different undesirable states a coral reef can shift to as a consequence of reef degradation. It concludes that different states are caused by different driving factors and that management must explicitly acknowledge this. Paper IV proposes a suite of resilience indicators that can help managers assess when a coral-dominated reef might be moving towards a shift to an undesirable state. These indicators capture key-processes occuring on different temporal and spatial scales and signal resilience loss early enough for managers to take appropriate measures. Finally, Paper V reviews the feedback loops that reinforce the undesirable states of five important marine ecosystems and suggests certain strategies that can ease the restoration back to healthier conditions. Managing these critical feedbacks will recquire monitoring the processes underpinning these feedbacks, breaking already established feedbacks loops through large-scale management trials and acknowledging transdisciplinary solutions that move management beyond the discipline of ecology

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 2010. 39 p.
resilience, alternative stable states, regimes, feedbacks, recruitment, coral reefs, marine ecosystem management, regime shifts, phase shifts
National Category
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-34037 (URN)978-91-7155-997-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-01-29, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Submitted. Paper 5: In progress.Available from: 2010-01-07 Created: 2010-01-04 Last updated: 2010-01-07Bibliographically approved

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Nyström, MagnusNorström, Albertde la Torre Castro, MaricelaFolke, CarlÖsterblom, Henrik
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Department of Systems EcologyBaltic Nest InstituteStockholm Resilience Centre
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