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Fri Jun 22, 2012, 08:07 AM

Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere

ruh roh

Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere

| NATURE | VOL 486 | 7 JUNE 2012

Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence. The plausibility of a planetary-scale ‘tipping point’ highlights the need to improve biological forecasting by detecting early warning signs of critical transitions on global as well as local scales, and by detecting feedbacks that promote such transitions. It is also necessary to address root causes of how humans are forcing biological changes.

http://www.ecoearth.info/shared/docfeed/biosphere_state_shift_nature.pdf

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Reply Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere (Original post)
Viking12 Jun 2012 OP
GliderGuider Jun 2012 #1
cbrer Jun 2012 #2

Response to Viking12 (Original post)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 08:25 AM

1. An excellent, if ultimately depressing article

Diminishing the range of biological surprises resulting from bottom-up (local-to-global) and top-down (global-to-local) forcings, postponing their effects and, in the optimal case, averting a planetary-scale critical transition demands global cooperation to stem current global-scale anthropogenic forcings.

This will require reducing world population growth and per-capita resource use; rapidly increasing the proportion of the world’s energy budget that is supplied by sources other than fossil fuels while also becoming more efficient in using fossil fuels when they provide the only option; increasing the efficiency of existing means of food production and distribution instead of converting new areas or relying on wild species to feed people; and enhancing efforts to manage as reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services, both in the terrestrial and marine realms, the parts of Earth’s surface that are not already dominated by humans

These are admittedly huge tasks, but are vital if the goal of science and society is to steer the biosphere towards conditions we desire, rather than those that are thrust upon us unwittingly.

The fact that the global conversation has turned to efficiency improvement in so many domains, from energy to food production to construction, is a sign that the system is maxed out, and is very near or at its breaking point.

Efficiency improvements are not a long-term solution for a bounded system in a state of constant growth. The only long-term solution is the cessation of growth.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #1)

Fri Jun 22, 2012, 11:15 AM

2. Indeed

 

The modeling for this type of forecasting is incredibly complex. And by necessity, incomplete.

Well written, eye opening article, if ultimately saddening.

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