One of the most challenging themes in ecology over the last decades is the quest for the understanding of discontinuous changes in ecosystems. Discontinuous shifts have already been observed and analyzed for a wide variety of ecological systems, including lakes, drylands, peatlands, rangelands, marine systems, and musselbeds.
Some of these discontinuous shifts in ecosystems imply undesired and irreversible changes. For example, shallow lakes can suddenly change into eutrophic systems with a large loss in biological diversity.
CASCADE is investigating and analyzing a range of dryland ecosystems in southern Europe to obtain a better understanding of sudden shifts in drylands that may lead to major losses in biodiversity and concomitant ecosystem services.
Based on these analyses, CASCADE will develop ways to predict the proximity of the CASCADE’s dryland ecosystems to thresholds in such a way that these predictions can be used by policymakers and land users for more sustainable management of drylands worldwide.