Ecological thresholds: The key to successful environmental management or an important concept with no practical application?

Published

Journal Article

An ecological threshold is the point at which there is an abrupt change in an ecosystem quality, property or phenomenon, or where small changes in an environmental driver produce large responses in the ecosystem. Analysis of thresholds is complicated by nonlinear dynamics and by multiple factor controls that operate at diverse spatial and temporal scales. These complexities have challenged the use and utility of threshold concepts in environmental management despite great concern about preventing dramatic state changes in valued ecosystems, the need for determining critical pollutant loads and the ubiquity of other threshold-based environmental problems. In this paper we define the scope of the thresholds concept in ecological science and discuss methods for identifying and investigating thresholds using a variety of examples from terrestrial and aquatic environments, at ecosystem, landscape and regional scales. We end with a discussion of key research needs in this area. © 2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Groffman, PM; Baron, JS; Blett, T; Gold, AJ; Goodman, I; Gunderson, LH; Levinson, BM; Palmer, MA; Paerl, HW; Peterson, GD; Poff, NLR; Rejeski, DW; Reynolds, JF; Turner, MG; Weathers, KC; Wiens, J

Published Date

  • February 1, 2006

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 9 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 1 - 13

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1435-0629

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1432-9840

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s10021-003-0142-z

Citation Source

  • Scopus