Earlier collapse of Anthropocene ecosystems driven by multiple faster and noisier drivers

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Willcock, S., Cooper, G. S., Addy, J. and Dearing, J. A. 2023. Earlier collapse of Anthropocene ecosystems driven by multiple faster and noisier drivers. Nature Sustainability. 6, p. 1331–1342. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-023-01157-x

AuthorsWillcock, S., Cooper, G. S., Addy, J. and Dearing, J. A.

A major concern for the world’s ecosystems is the possibility of collapse, where landscapes and the societies they support change abruptly. Accelerating stress levels, increasing frequencies of extreme events, and strengthening inter-system connections suggest that conventional modelling approaches based on incremental changes in a single stress may provide poor estimates of the impact of climate and human activities on ecosystems. We conduct experiments on four models that simulate abrupt changes in the Chilika lagoon fishery, the Easter Island community, forest dieback and lake water quality – representing ecosystems with a range of anthropogenic interactions. Collapses occur sooner under increasing levels of primary stress, but additional stresses and/or the inclusion of noise in all four models bring the collapses substantially closer to today by ~38-81%. We discuss the implications for further research and the need for humanity to be vigilant for signs that ecosystems are degrading even more rapidly than previously thought.

KeywordsClimate change; Modelling; Regime shift; Resilience; Stress; Tipping point
Year of Publication2023
JournalNature Sustainability
Journal citation6, p. 1331–1342
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-023-01157-x
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderNatural Environment Research Council
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Arts and Humanities Research Council
Economic and Social Research Council
Medical Research Council
Funder project or codeAgZero+
EnsemblES project – Using ensemble techniques to capture the accuracy and sensitivity of ecosystem service models
Scaling up Off-Grid Sanitation
MobilES - Using mobile-phone technology to capture ecosystem service information
Between environmental concerns and compliance
Resilient Farming Futures
Publisher's version
Accepted author manuscript
Supplemental file
Supplemental file
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online22 Jun 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted24 May 2023
PublisherSpringer Nature

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