Environmental Conservation Educational Materials

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Climate change and invasive species can interact to increase disturbances and magnify changes in ecosystem form and function (Double Trouble). Increasing resilience is one of several management approaches for enabling healthy ecosystems to persist despite these changes. While resilience can be complicated and take many forms, it can generally be thought of as the “ability [of an ecosystem] to experience disturbances or environmental change without changing to a fundamentally different state” [Holling, 1973]. The accumulating effects of climate change, invasive species, or interacting effects of multiple disturbances can push an ecosystem past a tipping point and into a new ecological state. These alternative states are characterized by a different suite of species or functions, which are difficult or impossible to recover from (e.g. a shift from a closed-canopy to an open-canopy forested wetland). Actions to increase resilience help an ecosystem to maintain or return to its fundamental structure or function after a disturbance. Resilience falls in the middle of a spectrum of management goals ranging from preventing change (resistance) to promoting change (transformation) in the species composition, structure, or functions provided by an ecosystem. Clear management goals (See Table) and an understanding of the range of disturbances affecting focal ecosystems are necessary for deciding between managing for resistance, resilience, or transformation and what actions are required for successful management outcomes.





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