Management applications of discontinuity theory

Journal of Applied Ecology
By: , and 



  1. Human impacts on the environment are multifaceted and can occur across distinct spatiotemporal scales. Ecological responses to environmental change are therefore difficult to predict, and entail large degrees of uncertainty. Such uncertainty requires robust tools for management to sustain ecosystem goods and services and maintain resilient ecosystems.
  2. We propose an approach based on discontinuity theory that accounts for patterns and processes at distinct spatial and temporal scales, an inherent property of ecological systems. Discontinuity theory has not been applied in natural resource management and could therefore improve ecosystem management because it explicitly accounts for ecological complexity.
  3. Synthesis and applications. We highlight the application of discontinuity approaches for meeting management goals. Specifically, discontinuity approaches have significant potential to measure and thus understand the resilience of ecosystems, to objectively identify critical scales of space and time in ecological systems at which human impact might be most severe, to provide warning indicators of regime change, to help predict and understand biological invasions and extinctions and to focus monitoring efforts. Discontinuity theory can complement current approaches, providing a broader paradigm for ecological management and conservation.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Management applications of discontinuity theory
Series title Journal of Applied Ecology
DOI 10.1111/1365-2664.12494
Volume 53
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle, John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis
Description 11 p.
First page 688
Last page 698
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