Critical Transitions in Nature and Society

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Princeton University Press, Jul 26, 2009 - Science - 384 pages

How do we explain the remarkably abrupt changes that sometimes occur in nature and society--and can we predict why and when they happen? This book offers a comprehensive introduction to critical transitions in complex systems--the radical changes that happen at tipping points when thresholds are passed.

Marten Scheffer accessibly describes the dynamical systems theory behind critical transitions, covering catastrophe theory, bifurcations, chaos, and more. He gives examples of critical transitions in lakes, oceans, terrestrial ecosystems, climate, evolution, and human societies. And he demonstrates how to deal with these transitions, offering practical guidance on how to predict tipping points, how to prevent "bad" transitions, and how to promote critical transitions that work for us and not against us. Scheffer shows the time is ripe for understanding and managing critical transitions in the vast and complex systems in which we live. This book can also serve as a textbook and includes a detailed appendix with equations.

  • Provides an accessible introduction to dynamical systems theory
  • Covers critical transitions in lakes, oceans, terrestrial ecosystems, the climate, evolution, and human societies
  • Explains how to predict tipping points
  • Offers strategies for preventing "bad" transitions and triggering "good" ones
  • Features an appendix with equations

 

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An excellent summary of complex social ecological systems and management strategies. Includes nice literature and good review of key dynamic systems theories. Must read for complex systems students.

Contents

Introduction
1
11 Coral Reef Collapse
2
12 The Birth of the Sahara Desert
3
13 Shifts in Societies
5
14 Content of this Book
6
Alternative Stable States
11
21 The Basics
13
22 Some Mechanisms
25
103 Synthesis
213
Terrestrial Ecosystems
216
112 SmallScale Transitions in Semiarid Vegetation
221
113 Boreal Forests and Tundra
226
114 The Rise and Fall of Raised Bogs
230
115 Species Extinction in Fragmented Landscapes
234
116 Epidemics as Critical Transitions
237
117 Synthesis
239

23 Synthesis
36
Cycles and Chaos
37
32 Complex Dynamics
42
33 Basin Boundary Collision
50
34 Synthesis
54
Emergent Patterns in Complex Systems
55
41 Spatial Patterns
56
42 Stability of Complex Interacting Networks
65
43 The Adaptive Cycle Theory
75
44 Synthesis
79
Implications of Fluctuations Heterogeneity and Diversity
81
51 Permanent Change
82
52 Spatial Heterogeneity and Modularity
85
53 Diversity of Players
90
54 Synthesis
95
Conclusion From Theoretical Concepts to Reality
96
62 Basins of Attraction
98
63 Resilience
101
64 Adaptive Capacity
103
65 Critical Transitions
104
Lakes
109
71 Transparency of Shallow Lakes
110
72 Dynamics
125
73 Other Alternative Stable States
131
74 Synthesis
138
Climate
139
81 Deep Time Climate Shifts
141
82 Glaciation Cycles
149
83 Abrupt Climate Change on Shorter Timescales
157
84 Synthesis
164
Evolution
166
92 Early Animal Evolution and the Cambrian Explosion
168
93 The EndPermian Extinction
172
94 The Angiosperm Radiation
174
95 From Dinosaurs to Mammals
176
96 Global Warming and the Birth of Primates Deer and Horses
177
97 In Search of the Big Picture
178
98 Synthesis
184
Oceans0
186
101 Open Ocean Regime Shifts
187
102 Coastal Ecosystems
201
Humans
240
121 Shifting Cells
242
122 Shifting Minds
243
123 Behavioral LockIn
244
124 Inertia and Shifts in Group Attitudes
246
125 Societies in Crisis
250
126 Synthesis
257
Conclusion Critical Transitions in a Complex World
259
How to Know if Alternative Basins of Attraction Exist
265
142 Experimental Evidence
270
143 Mechanistic Insight
273
144 Synthesis
280
How to Know if a Threshold Is Near
282
Signs of Upcoming Transitions
283
152 Precursors of Transitions in Real Systems
290
153 Reliablility of the Signals
293
154 Synthesis
294
The Winding Road from Science to Policy
296
161 Exploiting Nature in the Smartest Way
297
163 Synthesis
309
New Approaches to Managing Change
311
171 Promoting Good Transitions
312
172 Preventing Bad Transitions
320
173 Synthesis
324
Prospects
326
182 Toward a Practical Science of Critical Transitions
327
Appendix
329
A2 Allee Effect
332
A4 Competition between Two Species
334
A5 Multispecies Competition
338
A6 Predator Prey Cycles
339
A7 The Hopf Bifurcation
341
A9 Basin Boundary Collision
344
A11 SelfOrganized Patterns
345
A12 Alternative Stable States in Shallow Lakes
347
A13 Floating Plants
348
A14 Contingency in Behavior
350
Glossary
353
Notes
359
Index
379
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About the author (2009)

Marten Scheffer is professor of environmental sciences at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He is the author of Ecology of Shallow Lakes.

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