Meeting the Global Ecosystem Collapse Challenge

Date: 31, Jan, 2017
Author(s):   Chloe F. Sato, David B. Lindenmayer
Publisher: Conservation Letters

Natural systems are declining at an unparalleled rate. To prompt conservation of ecosystems, the IUCN has developed a framework to assess ecosystem threat. By 2025, the IUCN aims to assess the collapse risk of all the world's ecosystems using this framework. This increases the pressure to refine tractable methods to predict collapse. However, there has been no systematic review of whether predicting collapse is possible and practical, which is impeding consistent and comparable assessments of ecosystem threat. Here, we conduct such a review and highlight six areas of concern – stemming from the findings of our review – in need of immediate attention to progress work on assessing ecosystem collapse and the application of such assessments to the management of at‐risk ecosystems. These are: (1) better conceptualizations of ecosystems, (2) better conceptualizations of ecosystem collapse, (3) improved integration of theory, experimentation, and practice, (4) improved surrogates and early warning indicators of ecosystem collapse, (5) the implementation of management experiments to enhance understanding of ecosystem stability, and (6) ensuring IUCN Red List of Ecosystems listings result in the conservation of biodiversity.