ICES Annual Science Conference 2018

Theme session I

Co-sponsored by PICES
Tipping points, complex nature, and implications for marine socio-ecological systems management
Wednesday, 26 September
Lecture Hall M

​​​​​​​​​​​​Tipping points are critical thresholds for large, abrupt and (quasi-) irreversible changes happening in the biosphere. Generally referred to as regime shifts, these changes can totally remake an ecosystem’s structure and function. The resulting new state, stabilized by feedback mechanisms, is persistent in time, and impossible (or very difficult) to reverse due to hysteresis. Regime shifts usually cause strong ecological, social, and economic impacts and hence need to be accounted for in sustainable natural resource management.

Marine ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to such shifts. The development of ecosystem-based management approaches has created a cornerstone for integrating regimes shifts in management processes and decisions. The first step to successful integration requires the development of suitable indicators to understand, detect, and prevent unwanted future shifts of a system to a non-desired state or from a non-desired to a desired-state. Thus, defining tipping points and identifying their associated drivers is of primary importance.

Drivers causing tipping points may be natural or caused by humans, act at multiple temporal and spatial scales, and have lagged effects on social-ecological systems, acting directly and immediately (proximate) or causing a chain reaction (distal). Differences in causation (proximate vs distal) and interactions between drivers impacting different system components as well as lagged and cross-scale effects are a real challenge for the understanding of tipping points. The complexity of social-ecological systems requires collaboration, particularly when attempting to define tipping points based on empirical data and account for them in management.

This session will explore links and interactions between tipping points connected to shifts in marine ecosystems. It will examine implications of tipping points for ecosystem-based management and society. Presentations will therefore come from a variety of research areas (for example historical ecology, sociology, archaeology, economics, biology, politics) to allow cross-disciplinary discussion and understanding of tipping point mechanisms, as well as to support the development of more comprehensive management strategies.

Contributions are invited on, for example:

  • definition of tipping points and their drivers, based on empirical data 
  • theoretical studies and conceptual models linking different drivers and tipping points
  • evidence for linked tipping points in marine social-ecological systems
  • tipping points and drivers comparison, differences and relationships (lagged effects, cross scale studies, etc.)
  • recent advances in marine ecosystem-based management accounting for tipping points
  • comparisons of different strategies (mitigation, adaptation, restoration) for managing tipping points 
  • frameworks allowing to take into account tipping points in marine management decisions
  • methods related to tipping point detection (early warning signals)
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Xochitl Cormon (Germany)
Camilla Sguotti (Germany)
Christian Moellmann (Germany​)
Mary Hunsicker ​(USA)
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Theme session I

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