The 10 Australian ecosystems most vulnerable to tipping points

The 10 Australian ecosystems most vulnerable to tipping points

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsLaurance, WF, Dell, B, Turton, SM, Lawes, MJ, Assoc Prof Hutley, LB, McCallum, HI, Dale, P, Bird, M, Hardy, G, Prideaux, G, Gawne, B, McMahon, CR, Yu, R, Hero, J-M, Schwarzkopf, L, Krockenberger, AK, Douglas, MM, Silvester, E, Mahony, M, Vella, K, Saikia, U, Wahren, CH, Xu, Z, Smith, B, Cocklin, C
JournalBiological Conservation
ISBN Number0006-3207
KeywordsCatastrophes, Climatic change, Ecological resilience, Ecological thresholds, Exotic pests and pathogens, Feral animals, fire regimes, Global warming, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, Salinization, Sea-level rise, Species extinctions

We identify the 10 major terrestrial and marine ecosystems in Australia most vulnerable to tipping points, in which modest environmental changes can cause disproportionately large changes in ecosystem properties. To accomplish this we independently surveyed the coauthors of this paper to produce a list of candidate ecosystems, and then refined this list during a 2-day workshop. The list includes (1) elevationally restricted mountain ecosystems, (2) tropical savannas, (3) coastal floodplains and wetlands, (4) coral reefs, (5) drier rainforests, (6) wetlands and floodplains in the Murray-Darling Basin, (7) the Mediterranean ecosystems of southwestern Australia, (8) offshore islands, (9) temperate eucalypt forests, and (10) salt marshes and mangroves. Some of these ecosystems are vulnerable to widespread phase-changes that could fundamentally alter ecosystem properties such as habitat structure, species composition, fire regimes, or carbon storage. Others appear susceptible to major changes across only part of their geographic range, whereas yet others are susceptible to a large-scale decline of key biotic components, such as small mammals or stream-dwelling amphibians. For each ecosystem we consider the intrinsic features and external drivers that render it susceptible to tipping points, and identify subtypes of the ecosystem that we deem to be especially vulnerable.


Citation and export

Laurance, W. F. et al. The 10 Australian ecosystems most vulnerable to tipping points. Biological Conservation 144, 1472-1480 (2011).

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