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Title: Increasing instability of a rocky intertidal meta-ecosystem
Climate change threatens to destabilize ecological communities, potentially moving them from persistently occupied “basins of attraction” to different states. Increasing variation in key ecological processes can signal impending state shifts in ecosystems. In a rocky intertidal meta-ecosystem consisting of three distinct regions spread across 260 km of the Oregon coast, we show that annually cleared sites are characterized by communities that exhibit signs of increasing destabilization (loss of resilience) over the past decade despite persistent community states. In all cases, recovery rates slowed and became more variable over time. The conditions underlying these shifts appear to be external to the system, with thermal disruptions (e.g., marine heat waves, El Niño–Southern Oscillation) and shifts in ocean currents (e.g., upwelling) being the likely proximate drivers. Although this iconic ecosystem has long appeared resistant to stress, the evidence suggests that subtle destabilization has occurred over at least the last decade.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2050017 1735911 1554702 1050694
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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