Category Archives: latest news

Increasing climate variability will hit world’s poorest countries

It has been difficult to predict how weather extremes such as heat waves and cold snaps might change in a future climate. In this paper, we continue our long-term studies on climate variability, by looking at climate model predictions on future temperatures. We find that rich countries that contribute most to climate change will see less temperature fluctuation, whereas in poor countries the fluctuations will become stronger.

Evaluating early-warning indicators of critical transitions in natural aquatic ecosystems

pnas-2016-gsell-1608242113We just published a study on signatures of instability in empirical time series from five freshwater ecosystems with documented sudden, persistent transitions hypothesized to represent critical transitions. We detected strong variation in early warning indicators, and a low agreement between the four indicators we tested. We conclude that the applicability of these tools was strongly limited by the requirement for ecosystem-specific knowledge of transition-generating mechanisms and their drivers to choose relevant state variables for analysis, especially in monitored systems that are not explicitly designed for estimating this type of indicators.

PAGES Issue on Climate Tipping Points

PAGESIn the just published PAGES issue of Past Global Changes there is a science highlight on Tipping points or “Lessons from the Past for the Future” as the editorial suggests. In ten short 2-page contributions the most up-to-date ideas about past climatic transitions are highlighted together with examples from ecological and socio-ecological abrupt shifts. We have contributed in this issue a short piece on how the shift of the Sahara has been shaping our thinking about abrupt change.

Monitoring economic variables to infer ecosystem resilience

profit fluctuationsStrongly coupled socio-ecological systems propagate their effects and disturbances one to the other. This has been demonstrated in most studies of human management of common resources. In recent work, we show that indicators of decreasing resilience can also propagate from one system to the other. For example, an increasingly harvested fish stock might reflect its eroding resilience in the profits of its harvesters. This generally implies that monitoring socio-economic variables that are  linked to natural resources can indicate the resilience of the socio-ecological coupled system as a whole.

Hysteresis and Heteroskedasticity (early view papers)

Only a handful of studies demonstrate the existence of hysteresis in bistable systems. In a follow-up from our earlier work, we study the recovery trajectory of a light-stressed plankton population in a chemostat experiment (early view in Oikos). We find that reverse trajectories can be explained by hysteresis, time-delays and adaptive process, all of which pose interesting questions for the behavior of bistable systems under changing conditions.

Recently, we summarized a set of measures that can be used as spatial indicators for detecting loss of resilience.  We  now add another measure that can be used as early warning of critical transitions in spatially explicit systems: spatial heteroskedasticity. In short, this indicator is the analog of conditional heteroskedasticity in timeseries (the non constant variance along a timeseries). We now expand its use from indicator of critical transitions in timeseries to spatial data (early view in Ecology & Evolution).

Detecting tipping points in ecological networks

In this just published paper we develop a framework of detecting tipping points in the context of  mutualistic networks. Under a scenario of global environmental change that might affect species interactions we show how indicators of resilience could provide early warning in complex communities such as those represented by the network of interactions between plants and their animal mutualists. This work is a first step towards quantifying the risk of network collapse and the possibility to monitor community resilience based on best-indicator species.