I. S. Weaver and J. G. Dyke
School of Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, University Road, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
Received: 08 Oct 2015 – Accepted for review: 23 Oct 2015 – Discussion started: 27 Nov 2015
Abstract. Given the potential for elements of the Earth system to undergo rapid, hard to reverse changes in state, there is a pressing need to establish robust methods to produce early warning signals of such events. Here we present a conceptual ecosystem model in which a diversity of stable states emerge, along with rapid changes, referred to as critical transitions, as a consequence of external driving and non-linear ecological dynamics. We are able to produce robust early warning signals that precede critical transitions. However, we show that there is no correlation between the magnitude of the signal and magnitude or reversibility of any individual critical transition. We discuss these findings in the context of ecosystem management prior to and post critical transitions. We argue that an understanding of the dynamics of the systems is necessary both for management prior and post critical transitions and the effective interpretation of any early warning signal that may be produced for that system.
Weaver, I. S. and Dyke, J. G.: Early warning signals in complex ecosystems, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., 6, 2507-2542, doi:10.5194/esdd-6-2507-2015, 2015.