Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Linking degradation status with ecosystem vulnerability to environmental change

July 1, 2015

Environmental change can cause regime shifts in ecosystems, potentially threatening ecosystem services. It is unclear if the degradation status of ecosystems correlates with their vulnerability to environmental change, and thus the risk of future regime shifts. We assessed resilience in acidified (degraded) and circumneutral (undegraded) lakes with long-term data (1988–2012), using time series modeling. We identified temporal frequencies in invertebrate assemblages, which identifies groups of species whose population dynamics vary at particular temporal scales. We also assessed species with stochastic dynamics, those whose population dynamics vary irregularly and unpredictably over time. We determined the distribution of functional feeding groups of invertebrates within and across the temporal scales identified, and in those species with stochastic dynamics, and assessed attributes hypothesized to contribute to resilience. Three patterns of temporal dynamics, consistent across study lakes, were identified in the invertebrates. The first pattern was one of monotonic change associated with changing abiotic lake conditions. The second and third patterns appeared unrelated to the environmental changes we monitored. Acidified and the circumneutral lakes shared similar levels and patterns of functional richness, evenness, diversity, and redundancy for species within and across the observed temporal scales and for stochastic species groups. These similar resilience characteristics suggest that both lake types did not differ in vulnerability to the environmental changes observed here. Although both lake types appeared equally vulnerable in this study, our approach demonstrates how assessing systemic vulnerability by quantifying ecological resilience can help address uncertainty in predicting ecosystem responses to environmental change across ecosystems.

Publication Year 2015
Title Linking degradation status with ecosystem vulnerability to environmental change
DOI 10.1007/s00442-015-3281-y
Authors David G. Angeler, Didier L. Baho, Craig R. Allen, Richard K. Johnson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Oecologia
Index ID 70168390
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle