Monday, August 6, 2007 - 1:40 PM

SYMP 2-2: Planet under stress: Why understanding tipping points in the earth system is important

Lance Gunderson, n/a

As humans impact the planet at larger and longer scales, the ensuing changes are becoming more surprising and unpredictable. Hence, we can no longer rely on simple models to understand and manage these complex systems. Thresholds, tipping points and ecological resilience are part of a growing vocabulary that attempts to understand, characterize, and manage in a complicated world. Ecological resilience is defined as the amount of disturbance a socio-ecological system can absorb without changing stability regimes. However, resilience can be viewed in appositive or negative way; as some systems can become perversely resilient, or trapped in pathologic configurations. Those traps can arise from social or ecological components of the system. In such cases, transformations are needed to escape traps. Transformations involve cross scale changes in both ecological and social components, and can be fostered by ecological crises or environmental leadership. Examples of traps and transformations in large scale managed resource systems will be presented.