Tipping Points in Coastal Ecosystems


Change can happen fast in our coastal ecosystems and we often do not know what has been lost until it’s too late. Once ecological ‘tipping points’ are passed, it is difficult to reverse the state of the ecosystem.1 Often these changes creep up on us because they are caused by the cumulative impact of multiple stressors. These changes in ecosystems mean we can lose important ecosystem functions that underpin many of the things we value about out coastal ecosystems. One of the key challenges of ecosystem-based management (EBM) is therefore to identify what combination of stressors are likely to cause threshold changes and what parts of the ecosystem are most likely to be affected. A multi-institutional team of scientists from across New Zealand is conducting the science to assess the risk of passing these ‘tipping points’ in estuaries before they happen.

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