Utility - Why Are These Ideas Useful?

The theory of alternative stable states and regime shifts is exceedingly important for scientists, land managers, and global citizens to understand. Fundamentally, this theory demonstrates that in natural systems even incremental changes over time to either the system’s variables or parameters (that is, either the ball or the cup itself) can result in catastrophic and sudden shifts into alternate regimes with different ecosystem functions. Given the rapid and massive human impacts on Earth in the modern era, we must be aware of how actions may be approaching a threshold of change that threatens the stability and function of critical ecosystems. Understanding this possibility and managing for it is a crucial application of ecological resilience for human and ecosystem health. It is important to note that these regimes shifts can occur at a variety of spatial scales, from individual lakes up to the global scale.