Marten Scheffer

Wageningen University, Wageningen, Gelderland, Netherlands

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Publications (250)1281.42 Total impact

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    Trends in Ecology & Evolution 01/2015; 30(1):7-8. · 15.35 Impact Factor
  • Berg, M.S, van den, Nes, E.H, H. Coops, M. Scheffer
    Management and Ecology of Aquatic Plants: proceedings of the 10th EWRS International Symposium on Aquatic Weeds, Lisbon, Portugal. A. Monteiro, T. Vasconcelos and Luis Catarino (eds.) (1998) 35-39. 11/2014;
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    Nature 11/2014; 515(7525):27-28. · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Self-organized complexity at multiple spatial scales is a distinctive characteristic of biological systems. Yet, little is known about how different self-organizing processes operating at different spatial scales interact to determine ecosystem functioning. Here we show that the interplay between self-organizing processes at individual and ecosystem level is a key determinant of the functioning and resilience of mussel beds. In mussel beds, self-organization generates spatial patterns at two characteristic spatial scales: small-scale net-shaped patterns due to behavioural aggregation of individuals, and large-scale banded patterns due to the interplay of between-mussel facilitation and resource depletion. Model analysis reveals that the interaction between these behavioural and ecosystem-level mechanisms increases mussel bed resilience, enables persistence under deteriorating conditions and makes them less prone to catastrophic collapse. Our analysis highlights that interactions between different forms of self-organization at multiple spatial scales may enhance the intrinsic ability of ecosystems to withstand both natural and human-induced disturbances.
    Nature Communications 10/2014; 5:5234. · 10.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector and continues to expand alongside terrestrial crop and livestock production. Using portfolio theory as a conceptual framework, we explore how current interconnections between the aquaculture, crop, livestock, and fisheries sectors act as an impediment to, or an opportunity for, enhanced resilience in the global food system given increased resource scarcity and climate change. Aquaculture can potentially enhance resilience through improved resource use efficiencies and increased diversification of farmed species, locales of production, and feeding strategies. However, aquaculture's reliance on terrestrial crops and wild fish for feeds, its de-pendence on freshwater and land for culture sites, and its broad array of environmental impacts diminishes its ability to add resilience. Feeds for livestock and farmed fish that are fed rely largely on the same crops, although the fraction destined for aquaculture is presently small (∼4%). As demand for high-value fed aquaculture products grows, competition for these crops will also rise, as will the demand for wild fish as feed inputs. Many of these crops and forage fish are also consumed directly by humans and provide essential nutrition for low-income households. Their rising use in aquafeeds has the potential to increase price levels and volatility, worsening food insecurity among the most vulnerable populations. Although the diversification of global food production systems that includes aquaculture offers promise for enhanced resilience, such promise will not be realized if government policies fail to provide adequate incentives for resource efficiency, equity, and environmental protection. food portfolio management | crop resources | diversity | shocks | global change
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2014; 23. · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • Milena Holmgren, Marten Scheffer
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    ABSTRACT: Background/Question/Methods Rainfall variability is expected to increase with climate warming. We used the MODIS remotely-sensed estimations of tree cover (%) at 1 km2 to explore the patterns of tropical tree cover distribution in relation to rainfall variability. Results/Conclusions We found that rainfall variability is associated with reduced tree cover in the wet tropics globally. In contrast, high year-to-year variability is positive (South America), neutral (Africa) or negatively (Australia) related to tree cover in the dry tropics. We reflect on long-term observations to identify potential mechanisms that may explain these contrasting responses of tree cover to extreme rainfall events in drylands.
    99th ESA Annual Convention 2014; 08/2014
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    ABSTRACT: An analysis of the maximum height of woody plant species across the globe reveals that an intermediate size is remarkably rare. We speculate that this may be due to intrinsic suboptimality or to ecosystem bistability with open landscapes favouring shrubs, and closed canopies propelling trees to excessive tallness.
    Trends in Ecology & Evolution 08/2014; 29(8):433-434. · 15.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The invasion of Nile perch into LakeVictoria is one of the iconic examples of the destructive effect of an ntroduced species on an ecosystem but no convincing explanation exists of why Nile perch only increased dramatically after a 25 year lag. Here, we consider this problem using a mathematical model that takes into account interactions between Nile perch and its cichlid prey. We examined competing hypotheses to explain Nile perch invasion and show that suppression of juvenile Nile perch by cichlids may cause the system to have two alternative stable states: one with only cichlids and onewith coexistence of cichlids and Nile perch. Without cichlid predation on Nile perch, alternative stable states did not occur. Our analysis indicates that cichlid mortality, for example fishing mortality, may have induced the observed shift between the states.
    Theoretical Ecology 08/2014; · 1.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Mathematical modeling approaches are becoming ever more established in clinical neuroscience. They provide insight that is key to understand complex interactions of network phenomena, in general, and interactions within the migraine generator network, in particular. Purpose: In this study, two recent modeling studies on migraine are set in the context of premonitory symptoms that are easy to confuse for trigger factors. This causality confusion is explained, if migraine attacks are initiated by a transition caused by a tipping point. Conclusion: We need to characterize the involved neuronal and autonomic subnetworks and their connections during all parts of the migraine cycle if we are ever to understand migraine. We predict that mathematical models have the potential to dismantle large and correlated fluctuations in such subnetworks as a dynamical network biomarker of migraine.
    Cephalalgia 04/2014; · 4.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent studies show that the microbial communities inhabiting the human intestine can have profound impact on our well-being and health. However, we have limited understanding of the mechanisms that control this complex ecosystem. Based on a deep phylogenetic analysis of the intestinal microbiota in a thousand western adults we identified groups of bacteria that tend to be either nearly absent, or abundant in most individuals. The abundances of these bimodally distributed bacteria vary independently, and their contrasting alternative states are associated with host factors such as ageing and overweight. We propose that such bimodal groups represent independent tipping elements of the intestinal microbiota. These reflect the overall state of the intestinal ecosystem whose critical transitions can have profound health implications and diagnostic potential.
    Nature Communications 04/2014; 5. · 10.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A number of ecosystems can exhibit abrupt shifts between alternative stable states. Because of their important ecological and economic consequences, recent research has focused on devising early warning signals for anticipating such abrupt ecological transitions. In particular, theoretical studies show that changes in spatial characteristics of the system could provide early warnings of approaching transitions. However, the empirical validation of these indicators lag behind their theoretical developments. Here, we summarize a range of currently available spatial early warning signals, suggest potential null models to interpret their trends, and apply them to three simulated spatial data sets of systems undergoing an abrupt transition. In addition to providing a step-by-step methodology for applying these signals to spatial data sets, we propose a statistical toolbox that may be used to help detect approaching transitions in a wide range of spatial data. We hope that our methodology together with the computer codes will stimulate the application and testing of spatial early warning signals on real spatial data.
    PLoS ONE 03/2014; 9(3):e92097. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 03/2014; 111(10):E879. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Declines in pollinator populations may harm biodiversity and agricultural productivity. Little attention has, however, been paid to the systemic response of mutualistic communities to global environmental change. Using a modelling approach and merging network theory with theory on critical transitions, we show that the scale and nature of critical transitions is likely to be influenced by the architecture of mutualistic networks. Specifically, we show that pollinator populations may collapse suddenly once drivers of pollinator decline reach a critical point. A high connectance and/or nestedness of the mutualistic network increases the capacity of pollinator populations to persist under harsh conditions. However, once a tipping point is reached, pollinator populations collapse simultaneously. Recovering from this single community-wide collapse requires a relatively large improvement of conditions. These findings may have large implications for our view on the sustainability of pollinator communities and the services they provide.
    Ecology Letters 01/2014; · 13.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: About 17% of humanity goes through an episode of major depression at some point in their lifetime. Despite the enormous societal costs of this incapacitating disorder, it is largely unknown how the likelihood of falling into a depressive episode can be assessed. Here, we show for a large group of healthy individuals and patients that the probability of an upcoming shift between a depressed and a normal state is related to elevated temporal autocorrelation, variance, and correlation between emotions in fluctuations of autorecorded emotions. These are indicators of the general phenomenon of critical slowing down, which is expected to occur when a system approaches a tipping point. Our results support the hypothesis that mood may have alternative stable states separated by tipping points, and suggest an approach for assessing the likelihood of transitions into and out of depression.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 12/2013; · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • Remi Vergnon, Egbert H. van Nes, Marten Scheffer
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    ABSTRACT: Formulated in 2006, Scheffer and van Nes’ Emergent neutrality model predicts that competing species might self‐organize into groups of species similar in their traits. Recently, Vergnon et al. showed that the model consistently generates multimodal species abundance distributions, in accordance with empirical data. Barabás et al. argue that Emergent neutrality model relies on unmodeled, ‘hidden’ species differences. They also suggest that an Emergent neutrality model explicitly integrating such differences may fail to generate multimodal species abundance distributions, while other models can robustly produce those patterns. Here we demonstrate that density dependence – the process deemed problematic by Barabás et al. – may permanently maintain groups of similar species without need for additional species differences. More broadly, we make it clear that density dependence is not the only likely mechanism that could allow the permanent coexistence of similar species in the Emergent neutrality framework. We welcome the finding that models other than Emergent neutrality can generate multimodal abundance distributions and we briefly discuss their novelty and relevance.
    Oikos 11/2013; 122(11). · 3.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Nile perch (Lates niloticus) suddenly invaded Lake Victoria between 1979 and 1987, 25 years after its introduction in the Ugandan side of the lake. Nile perch then replaced the native fish diversity and irreversibly altered the ecosystem and its role to lakeshore societies: it is now a prised export product that supports millions of livelihoods. The delay in the Nile perch boom led to a hunt for triggers of the sudden boom and generated several hypotheses regarding its growth at low abundances - all hypotheses having important implications for the management of Nile perch stocks. We use logistic growth as a parsimonious null model to predict when the Nile perch invasion should have been expected, given its growth rate, initial stock size and introduction year. We find the first exponential growth phase can explain the timing of the perch boom at the scale of Lake Victoria, suggesting that complex mechanisms are not necessary to explain the Nile perch invasion or its timing. However, the boom started in Kenya before Uganda, indicating perhaps that Allee effects act at smaller scales than that of the whole Lake. The Nile perch invasion of other lakes indicates that habitat differences may also have an effect on invasion success. Our results suggest there is probably no single management strategy applicable to the whole lake that would lead to both efficient and sustainable exploitation of its resources.
    PLoS ONE 10/2013; 8(10):e76847. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It has recently been found that the frequency distribution of remotely sensed tree cover in the tropics has three distinct modes, which seem to correspond to forest, savanna and treeless states. This pattern has been suggested to imply that these states represent alternative attractors, and that the response of these systems to climate change would be characterized by critical transitions and hysteresis. Here, we show how this inference is contingent upon mechanisms at play. We present a simple dynamical model that can generate three alternative tree cover states (forest, savanna and a treeless state), based on known mechanisms, and use this model to simulate patterns of tree cover under different scenarios. We use these synthetic data to show that the hysteresis inferred from remotely sensed tree cover patterns will be inflated by spatial heterogeneity of environmental conditions. On the other hand, we show that the hysteresis inferred from satellite data may actually underestimate real hysteresis in response to climate change if there exists a positive feedback between regional tree cover and precipitation. Our results also indicate that such positive feedback between vegetation and climate should cause direct shifts between forest and a treeless state (rather than through an intermediate savanna-state) to become more likely. Lastly, we show how directionality of historical change in conditions may bias the observed relationship between tree cover and environmental conditions. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Global Change Biology 09/2013; · 8.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background/Question/Methods Ecosystems have the capacity to go through sudden regime shifts from one seemingly stable state to another potentially less desirable state. Such transitions may occur locally --- affecting only a single part of the system --- or systemically, when many parts of the system go through a transition simultaneously. With simulations, we mimic the dynamics of networks of interacting species and develop indicators that help us identify systems that are prone to experience systemic shifts. Results/Conclusions Modules of highly cross-correlated species appear prior to systemic shifts, pointing towards the species that will go through a transition simultaneously. Positively correlated species will shift in the same direction, while negatively correlated species will shift in opposite directions. The reason for the appearance of those modules is twofold. First, positive and negative cross-correlations appear as a result of the combined effect of direct interactions and indirect effects mediated through other species within the system. Only species that facilitate each other have the potential to collapse simultaneously, while species that have a negative effect on each other will shift in opposite directions. Second, species near a transition point become more 'sensitive' to perturbations. This makes them not only slower when recovering from a direct perturbation, but also when recovering from the indirect effect of a perturbation in species that are directly or indirectly connected to them.
    98th ESA Annual Convention 2013; 08/2013
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    ABSTRACT: Background/Question/Methods The concept of alternative stable states has become an influential paradigm in ecology. Implications of alternative states are profound from a restoration perspective, but also when it comes to understanding the potential response of ecosystems to change in conditions such as the climate. A problem in extrapolating our current insights to such problems is that so-far most work on alternative stable states comes from relatively small and spatially isolated systems such as lakes and ponds, from controlled, isolated experiments, or from small enclosures in large-scale systems. In reality we often face spatially extended heterogeneous ecosystems rather than well isolated homogeneous ecosystems. The question how stability changes in spatial settings is still underexplored. We used classical bi-stable models in a spatial context to systematically explore how local positive feedback that lead to local alternative stable states, could affect large-scale collapse and recovery. Results/Conclusions We show that resilience of the dominant state in a spatially extensive system does not change gradually as environmental conditions change, in contrast to a well-mixed system. Instead, resilience remains large, until it drops sharply around a critical level of the environmental factor (a ‘stationary front bifurcation’) where it becomes fragile in the sense that even a rather small local perturbation can cause a domino effect leading to a systemic shift to the more resilient state. Our results hint at conditions under which restoration efforts can succeed or fail locally, or even cascade through a landscape. Importantly, they also hint at factors that may determine the character of major biome shifts projected to happen as a result of climatic change.
    98th ESA Annual Convention 2013; 08/2013

Publication Stats

12k Citations
1,281.42 Total Impact Points

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  • 1997–2014
    • Wageningen University
      • Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management
      Wageningen, Gelderland, Netherlands
  • 2013
    • James Cook University
      • ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
      Townsville, Queensland, Australia
  • 2012–2013
    • University of Southampton
      Southampton, England, United Kingdom
    • University of Exeter
      • College of Life and Environmental Sciences
      Exeter, ENG, United Kingdom
  • 2011
    • Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries
      Berlín, Berlin, Germany
    • University of Maine
      • School of Marine Sciences
      Orono, MN, United States
    • University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
      • Department of Biological Sciences
      Milwaukee, WI, United States
    • Greenland Institute of Natural Resources
      Nuuk, Sermersooq, Greenland
  • 1995–2011
    • University of Amsterdam
      • Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics
      Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 2009
    • Aarhus University
      • Department of Bioscience
      Aarhus, Central Jutland, Denmark
  • 2007
    • Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)
      Wageningen, Gelderland, Netherlands
  • 2006
    • University of Manitoba
      • Natural Resources Institute
      Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada