Rapid transitions in ecosystem structure, or regime shifts, are a hallmark of alternative stable states. However, regime shifts can occur even when feedbacks are not strong enough to cause alternative stable states. Despite the theoretical and practical importance of distinguishing between different types of threshold responses, empirical evaluations of alternative stable states on management-relevant scales are rare. NTL-LTER researchers have observed rapid transitions between invasive rusty crayfish (Orconectesrusticus) and native sunfishes (Lepomis spp.) in two LTER lakes.
Eutrophication, the over-enrichment of freshwaters with nutrients, is caused by complex interactions of people and ecosystems that are hard to manage. A long-term perspective shows how management can adapt to changing social and ecological realities, learning from failures and building on successes.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #DEB-0822700, NTL LTER. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.