Foreseeing the future of mutualistic communities beyond collapse

‘Foreseeing the future of mutualistic communities beyond collapse’

Gradual changes in environmental conditions may lead to sudden shifts in the state of ecosystems when tipping points are passed. Well-known examples of such ‘transitions’ lead to predictable outcomes such as a turbid lake or a degraded landscape. Not all ecosystems, however, behave in such a predictable way. Many ecosystems consist of many interacting species. When such ‘complex systems’ pass a tipping point, they may shift to many different, alternative states. Whether an impending transition has minor, positive or catastrophic effects is thus unclear. Some complex ecosystems may, however, behave more predictably than others. In Lever et al. (2020), we suggest that the future state of ecosystems in which mutually beneficial relationships are relatively strong can be predicted when studying the way in which a system recovers from small-scale disturbances.