Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 503300
Title Multiple feedbacks and the prevalence of alternate stable states on coral reefs
Author(s) Leemput, Ingrid A. van de; Hughes, Terry P.; Nes, Egbert H. van; Scheffer, Marten
Source Coral Reefs 35 (2016)3. - ISSN 0722-4028 - p. 857 - 865.
Department(s) Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2016
Keyword(s) Alternate stable states - Coral reefs - Critical transitions - Hysteresis - Positive feedback - Resilience

The prevalence of alternate stable states on coral reefs has been disputed, although there is universal agreement that many reefs have experienced substantial losses of coral cover. Alternate stable states require a strong positive feedback that causes self-reinforcing runaway change when a threshold is passed. Here we use a simple model of the dynamics of corals, macroalgae and herbivores to illustrate that even weak positive feedbacks that individually cannot lead to alternate stable states can nonetheless do so if they act in concert and reinforce each other. Since the strength of feedbacks varies over time and space, our results imply that we should not reject or accept the general hypothesis that alternate stable states occur in coral reefs. Instead, it is plausible that shifts between alternate stable states can occur sporadically, or on some reefs but not others depending on local conditions. Therefore, we should aim at a better mechanistic understanding of when and why alternate stable states may occur. Our modelling results point to an urgent need to recognize, quantify, and understand feedbacks, and to reorient management interventions to focus more on the mechanisms that cause abrupt transitions between alternate states.

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