Critical Transitions in Nature and Society:

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Overview

"This is an important book. Critical transitions and resilience are powerful explanatory tools in ecology today, and it is significant that Scheffer, the leading expert in the applications of critical transitions in ecology, has written a monograph in this area. Scheffer is an excellent writer, and a very good expositor of theoretical concepts in ecology. The ideas in this book should be part of every educated person's mental framework."--Donald L. DeAngelis, University of Miami

"This is a timely book that will have considerable impact on multiple disciplines, including ecology, the social sciences, and economics. It focuses on the theory, examples, and implications of complex systems, particularly critical transitions resulting from positive feedbacks. Scheffer has always been a master at presenting complex issues in a simple way, and this book is no exception. This is a rare gem."--Jon Norberg, Stockholm University

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Editorial Reviews

Basic and Applied Ecology
Scheffer's book is a good read. It is fluently written and breathes authority, while still being highly consistent in its terminology.
— Carsten F. Dormann
Ecology
We recommend this book as the best integration of the multiple rubrics (resilience, regime change, panarchy, complexity, dynamical systems theory) found on the subject of critical transitions or abrupt change, and as an enjoyable as well as enlightening synthesis of a timely and important topic bearing on many of the crucial dilemmas of our time.
— William A. Reiners
Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie
The marvelous Scheffer's book is strongly recommended for all geoscientists because of three main reasons. First, it explains the outstanding importance of critical transitions in the abiotic, biotic, and social evolution and establishes a helpful framework for their further studies. Second, this book gives an exceptional opportunity to realize how broad, even philosophical treatment of very particular ideas can facilitate development of the tatters. Third, the author was very successful in demonstration of how do general laws work in the both nature and society. This unconventional book is very informative, well-written, and stimulating, and, consequently, nobody will lose her/his time reading it.
— Dmitry A. Ruban
Choice - M. Evans
This excellent, well-crafted volume outlines theoretical/applied evidence describing regime shifts that occur in natural and societal systems, and suggests how to address deleterious change to further human welfare. Scheffer expertly argues that system shifts are critical transitions arising when normal cyclical processes are stressed, thereby generating 'tipping points'. . . . A highly important book of intellectual and applied significance.
Basic and Applied Ecology - Carsten F. Dormann
Scheffer's book is a good read. It is fluently written and breathes authority, while still being highly consistent in its terminology.
Ecology - William A. Reiners
We recommend this book as the best integration of the multiple rubrics (resilience, regime change, panarchy, complexity, dynamical systems theory) found on the subject of critical transitions or abrupt change, and as an enjoyable as well as enlightening synthesis of a timely and important topic bearing on many of the crucial dilemmas of our time.
Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie - Dmitry A. Ruban
The marvelous Scheffer's book is strongly recommended for all geoscientists because of three main reasons. First, it explains the outstanding importance of critical transitions in the abiotic, biotic, and social evolution and establishes a helpful framework for their further studies. Second, this book gives an exceptional opportunity to realize how broad, even philosophical treatment of very particular ideas can facilitate development of the tatters. Third, the author was very successful in demonstration of how do general laws work in the both nature and society. This unconventional book is very informative, well-written, and stimulating, and, consequently, nobody will lose her/his time reading it.
From the Publisher

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2009

"This excellent, well-crafted volume outlines theoretical/applied evidence describing regime shifts that occur in natural and societal systems, and suggests how to address deleterious change to further human welfare. Scheffer expertly argues that system shifts are critical transitions arising when normal cyclical processes are stressed, thereby generating 'tipping points'. . . . A highly important book of intellectual and applied significance."--M. Evans, Choice

"Scheffer's book is a good read. It is fluently written and breathes authority, while still being highly consistent in its terminology."--Carsten F. Dormann, Basic and Applied Ecology

"We recommend this book as the best integration of the multiple rubrics (resilience, regime change, panarchy, complexity, dynamical systems theory) found on the subject of critical transitions or abrupt change, and as an enjoyable as well as enlightening synthesis of a timely and important topic bearing on many of the crucial dilemmas of our time."--William A. Reiners, Ecology

"The marvelous Scheffer's book is strongly recommended for all geoscientists because of three main reasons. First, it explains the outstanding importance of critical transitions in the abiotic, biotic, and social evolution and establishes a helpful framework for their further studies. Second, this book gives an exceptional opportunity to realize how broad, even philosophical treatment of very particular ideas can facilitate development of the tatters. Third, the author was very successful in demonstration of how do general laws work in the both nature and society. This unconventional book is very informative, well-written, and stimulating, and, consequently, nobody will lose her/his time reading it."--Dmitry A. Ruban, Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie

Choice
This excellent, well-crafted volume outlines theoretical/applied evidence describing regime shifts that occur in natural and societal systems, and suggests how to address deleterious change to further human welfare. Scheffer expertly argues that system shifts are critical transitions arising when normal cyclical processes are stressed, thereby generating 'tipping points'. . . . A highly important book of intellectual and applied significance.
— M. Evans
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691122045
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2009
  • Series: Princeton Studies in Complexity Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,418,002
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Marten Scheffer is professor of environmental sciences at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He is the author of "Ecology of Shallow Lakes".
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii

CHAPTER 1. Introduction 1
1.1 Coral Reef Collapse 2
1.2 The Birth of the Sahara Desert 3
1.3 Shifts in Societies 5
1.4 Content of this Book 6

Part I: THEORY OF CRITICAL TRANSITIONS

CHAPTER 2. Alternative Stable States 11
2.1 The Basics 13
2.2 Some Mechanisms 25
2.3 Synthesis 36

CHAPTER 3. Cycles and Chaos 37
3.1 The Limit Cycle 37
3.2 Complex Dynamics 42
3.3 Basin Boundary Collision 50
3.4 Synthesis 54

CHAPTER 4. Emergent Patterns in Complex Systems 55
4.1 Spatial Patterns 56
4.2 Stability of Complex Interacting Networks 65
4.3 The Adaptive Cycle Theory 75
4.4 Synthesis 79

CHAPTER 5. Implications of Fluctuations, Heterogeneity, and Diversity 81
5.1 Permanent Change 82
5.2 Spatial Heterogeneity and Modularity 85
5.3 Diversity of Players 90
5.4 Synthesis 95

CHAPTER 6. Conclusion: From Theoretical Concepts to Reality 96
6.1 Alternative Stable States 96
6.2 Basins of Attraction 98
6.3 Resilience 101
6.4 Adaptive Capacity 103
6.5 Critical Transitions 104
6.5 Synthesis 104

PART II: CASE STUDIES

CHAPTER 7. Lakes 109
7.1 Transparency of Shallow Lakes 110
7.2 Dynamics 125
7.3 Other Alternative Stable States 131
7.4 Synthesis 138

CHAPTER 8. Climate 139
8.1 Deep Time Climate Shifts 141
8.2 Glaciation Cycles 149
8.3 Abrupt Climate Change on Shorter Timescales 157
8.4 Synthesis 164

CHAPTER 9. Evolution 166
9.1 Introduction 166
9.2 Early Animal Evolution and the Cambrian Explosion 168
9.3 The End-Permian Extinction 172
9.4 The Angiosperm Radiation 174
9.5 From Dinosaurs to Mammals 176
9.6 Global Warming and the Birth of Primates, Deer, and Horses 177
9.7 In Search of the Big Picture 178
9.8 Synthesis 184

CHAPTER 10. Oceans 186
10.1 Open Ocean Regime Shifts 187
10.2 Coastal Ecosystems 201
10.3 Synthesis 213

CHAPTER 11. Terrestrial Ecosystems 216
11.1 Vegetation-Climate Shifts in Dry Regions 216
11.2 Small-Scale Transitions in Semiarid Vegetation 221
11.3 Boreal Forests and Tundra 226
11.4 The Rise and Fall of Raised Bogs 230
11.5 Species Extinction in Fragmented Landscapes 234
11.6 Epidemics as Critical Transitions 237
11.7 Synthesis 239

CHAPTER 12. Humans 240
12.1 Shifting Cells 242
12.2 Shifting Minds 243
12.3 Behavioral Lock-In 244
12.4 Inertia and Shifts in Group Attitudes 246
12.5 Societies in Crisis 250
12.6 Synthesis 257

CHAPTER 13. Conclusion: Critical Transitions in a Complex World 259

PART III: DEALING WITH CRITICAL TRANSITIONS

CHAPTER 14. How to Know if Alternative Basins of Attraction Exist 265
14.1 Hints from Field Data 265
14.2 Experimental Evidence 270
14.3 Mechanistic Insight 273
14.4 Synthesis 280

CHAPTER 15. How to Know if a Threshold Is Near 282
15.1 The Theory: Signs of Upcoming Transitions 283
15.2 Precursors of Transitions in Real Systems 290
15.3 Reliablility of the Signals 293
15.4 Synthesis 294

CHAPTER 16. The Winding Road from Science to Policy 296
16.1 Exploiting Nature in the Smartest Way 297
16.2 Barriers to Good Solutions 303
16.3 Synthesis 309

CHAPTER 17. New Approaches to Managing Change 311
17.1 Promoting Good Transitions 312
17.2 Preventing Bad Transitions 320
17.3 Synthesis 324

CHAPTER 18. Prospects 326
18.1 The Delicate Issue of the Burden of Proof 326
18.2 Toward a Practical Science of Critical Transitions 327

Appendix 329
A.1 Logistic Growth 329
A.2 Allee Effect 332
A.3 Overexploitation 332
A.4 Competition between Two Species 334
A.5 Multispecies Competition 338
A.6 Predator-Prey Cycles 339
A.7 The Hopf Bifurcation 341
A.8 Stabilization by Spatial Heterogeneity 341
A.9 Basin Boundary Collision 344
A.10 Periodic Forcing 344
A.11 Self-Organized Patterns 345
A.12 Alternative Stable States in Shallow Lakes 347
A.13 Floating Plants 348
A.14 Contingency in Behavior 350

Glossary 353
Notes 359
Index 379

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