Tipping Points

Tipping points in the Biosphere: Assessing resilience of ecosystem services to global agricultural expansion

There is increasing global pressure on freshwater and agricultural systems as demand for agricultural products grows, stimulating the expansion and intensification of agriculture and its hydrological consequences. At the same time, climate variability and water scarcity amplify the vulnerability of these systems to regime shifts. The tipping points research theme addresses social-ecological regime shifts that are triggered by agriculture's alterations of quantity and quality of water with a focus at the global scale. One goal of this research is to develop a conceptual framework for understanding how interactions among ecosystem processes regulate the resilience of food-water systems. We also aim to improve models and methods for assessing global vulnerabilities to these regime shifts as the pressure on agriculture grows and to map regions that are particularly vulnerable to regime shifts driven by changes in water quality and/or quantity.

A symposium entitled "Tipping Points in the Biosphere: Agriculture, Water, and Resilience" has been organized for the Ecological Society of American's annual conference in August 2007. Speakers at the symposium include Line Gordon (Stockholm University), Garry Peterson (McGill University), Elena Bennett (McGill University), Johan Rockström (SEI), Lance Gunderson (Emory University) and Max Rietkerk (Utrecht University).

Contacts: Line Gordon (Stockholm University), Garry Peterson (McGill University) and Elena Bennett (McGill University)

Key Publications:
Agricultural modifications of hydrological flows create ecological surprises 2008. Line J. Gordon, Garry D. Peterson, and Elena M. Bennett. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Volume 23, Issue 4, April 2008, Pages 211-219.

Enfors, E., Gordon, L.J. (2007) Analysing resilience in dryland agro-ecosystems: A case study of the Makanya catchment in Tanzania over the past 50 years. Land Degradation & Development, 18(6) 680 - 696.

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