Combating ecosystem collapse from the tropics to the Antarctic

Date: 25, Feb, 2021
Author(s):   Bergstrom, D., Wienecke, B., van den Hoff, J., Hughes, L., Lindenmayer, D., Ainsworth, T., Baker, C., Bland, L., Bowman, D., Brooks, S., Canadell, J., Constable, A., Dafforn, K., Depledge, A., Dickson, C., Duke, N., Helmstedt, K., Holz, A, Johnson, C., McGeoch, M., Melbourne-Thomas, J., Morgain, R., Nicholson, E., Prober, S., Raymond, B., Ritchie, E., Robinson, S., Ruthrof, K, Setterfield, S, Sgrò, C., Stark, J., Travers, T., Trebilco, R., Ward, D., Wardle, G., Williams, K., Zylstra, P., Shaw, J
Publisher: Global Change Biology

Globally, collapse of ecosystems—potentially irreversible change to ecosystem structure, composition and function—imperils biodiversity, human health and well-being. We examine the current state and recent trajectories of 19 ecosystems, spanning 58° of latitude across 7.7 M km2, from Australia's coral reefs to terrestrial Antarctica. Pressures from global climate change and regional human impacts, occurring as chronic ‘presses’ and/or acute ‘pulses’, drive ecosystem collapse. Ecosystem responses to 5–17 pressures were categorised as four collapse profiles—abrupt, smooth, stepped and fluctuating. The manifestation of widespread ecosystem collapse is a stark warning of the necessity to take action. We present a three-step assessment and management framework (3As Pathway Awareness, Anticipation and Action) to aid strategic and effective mitigation to alleviate further degradation to help secure our future.