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Experimenting with ecosystem interaction networks in search of threshold potentials in real-world marine ecosystems
Thrush, S.F.; Hewitt, J.E.; Parkes, S.; Lohrer, A.M.; Pilditch, C.A.; Woodin, S.A.; Wethey, D.S.; Chiantore, M.; Asnaghi, V.; De Juan, S.; Kraan, C.; Rodil, I.; Savage, C.; Van Colen, C. (2014). Experimenting with ecosystem interaction networks in search of threshold potentials in real-world marine ecosystems. Ecology 95(6): 1451-1457. hdl.handle.net/10.1890/13-1879.1
In: Ecology. Ecological Society of America: Brooklyn, NY. ISSN 0012-9658; e-ISSN 1939-9170
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 
    Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee: Open access 257875 [ download pdf ]

Keywords
    Bifurcations
    Bivalves
    Properties > Physical properties > Turbidity
    Thresholds
    Austrovenus stutchburyi (W. Wood, 1828) [WoRMS]; Tellina liliana Iredale, 1915 [WoRMS]
    PSE, New Zealand, North I., Manukau Harbour
    Marine
Author keywords
    Austrovenus stutchburyi; Break points; Ecosystem dynamics; Macomona liliana; Marine sandflats

Authors  Top 
  • Thrush, S.F.
  • Hewitt, J.E.
  • Parkes, S.
  • Lohrer, A.M.
  • Pilditch, C.A.
  • Woodin, S.A.
  • Wethey, D.S.
  • Chiantore, M.
  • Asnaghi, V.
  • De Juan, S.
  • Kraan, C.
  • Rodil, I.
  • Savage, C.
  • Van Colen, C.

Abstract
    Thresholds profoundly affect our understanding and management of ecosystem dynamics, but we have yet to develop practical techniques to assess the risk that thresholds will be crossed. Combining ecological knowledge of critical system interdependencies with a large-scale experiment, we tested for breaks in the ecosystem interaction network to identify threshold potential in real-world ecosystem dynamics. Our experiment with the bivalves Macomona liliana and Austrovenus stutchburyi on marine sandflats in New Zealand demonstrated that reductions in incident sunlight changed the interaction network between sediment biogeochemical fluxes, productivity, and macrofauna. By demonstrating loss of positive feedbacks and changes in the architecture of the network, we provide mechanistic evidence that stressors lead to break points in dynamics, which theory predicts predispose a system to a critical transition.

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