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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

Early Detection of Ecosystem Regime Shifts: A Multiple Method Evaluation for Management Application

Lindegren, Martin; Dakos, Vasilis; Groeger, Joachim P; Gårdmark, Anna; Kornilovs, Georgs; Otto, Saskia A.; Möllmann, Christian


Critical transitions between alternative stable states have been shown to occur across an array of complex systems. While our ability to identify abrupt regime shifts in natural ecosystems has improved, detection of potential early-warning signals previous to such shifts is still very limited. Using real monitoring data of a key ecosystem component, we here apply multiple early-warning indicators in order to assess their ability to forewarn a major ecosystem regime shift in the Central Baltic Sea. We show that some indicators and methods can result in clear early-warning signals, while other methods may have limited utility in ecosystem-based management as they show no or weak potential for early-warning. We therefore propose a multiple method approach for early detection of ecosystem regime shifts in monitoring data that may be useful in informing timely management actions in the face of ecosystem change.

Published in

2012, volume: 7, number: 7, article number: e38410

Authors' information

Lindegren, Martin
University of California Santa Barbara
Dakos, Vasilis
Wageningen University
Groeger, Joachim P
Thünen Institute (vTI)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Kornilovs, Georgs
Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment (BIOR)
Otto, Saskia A.
University of Hamburg
Möllmann, Christian
University of Hamburg

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land
SDG14 Life below water
SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers


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