Because the response of ecosystem patterns and processes to disturbance is rarely linear, the dynamic regime concept offers a more realistic construct than linear models for understanding ecosystems. Dynamic regimes, and shifts between them, have been reported for a diversity of ecosystem types (e.g., terrestrial, marine, aquatic) at a variety of scales (e.g., from small lakes to the global climate). Ecosystem regimes that are obvious at one scale may not be at another. Regimes are maintained by internal relationships and feedbacks between species, and these internal dynamics can interact with large-scale external forces (such as global weather patterns) and trigger shifts to alternative regimes. The dynamic regime concept is commonly used in ecosystem management, restoration, and sustainability efforts, in what are known as “state-and-transition,” “threshold,” or “alternative stable state” models. Here we review the application of this concept to ecosystem management and restoration, and discuss how dynamic processes at multiple scales can affect this application.
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Vol. 54 • No. 11