The objective of this paper is to recommend conceptual modifications for incorporation in state-and-transition models (STMs) to link this framework explicitly to the concept of ecological resilience. Ecological resilience describes the amount of change or disruption that is required to transform a system from being maintained by one set of mutually reinforcing processes and structures to a different set of processes and structures (e.g., an alternative stable state). In light of this concept, effective ecosystem management must focus on the adoption of management practices and policies that maintain or enhance ecological resilience to prevent stable states from exceeding thresholds. Resilience management does not exclusively focus on identifying thresholds per se, but rather on within-state dynamics that influence state vulnerability or proximity to thresholds. Resilience-based ecosystem management provides greater opportunities to incorporate adaptive management than does threshold-based management because thresholds emphasize limits of state resilience, rather than conditions that determine the probability that these limits will be surpassed. In an effort to further promote resilience-based management, we recommend that the STM framework explicitly describe triggers, at-risk communities, feedback mechanisms, and restoration pathways and develop process-specific indicators that enable managers to identify at-risk plant communities and potential restoration pathways. Two STMs representing different ecological conditions and geographic locations are presented to illustrate the incorporation and application of these recommendations. We anticipate that these recommendations will enable STMs to capture additional ecological information and contribute to improved ecosystem management by focusing attention on the maintenance of state resilience in addition to the anticipation of thresholds. Adoption of these recommendations may promote valuable dialogue between researchers and ecosystem managers regarding the general nature of ecosystem dynamics.
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Vol. 61 • No. 4