Deliverable 4.10

Abstract: Guidelines on ecological thresholds for temperature, water level fluctuations and nutrient loading in European riparian wetlands, suitable for adaptive management

Ecological thresholds represent the point at which an ecological process or parameter changes abruptly in response to relatively small changes in a driving force. Although the non-linear nature of ecological dynamics is widely recognised, the concept of threshold responses have only recently received warranted attention in conservation and management.
In this report we synthesise current knowledge on ecological thresholds and alternative stable states and review numerous examples of threshold responses in riparian ecosystems. The review shows that changes in the hydrologic regime often represent the trigger that causes abrupt ecological transitions. Conversely, clear threshold responses to variations in temperature and nutrients appeared less common.
We then discuss the implications of threshold relationships for the management of riparian wetlands. Critical steps needed to embody thresholds models in adaptive management include the assessment of wetlands predisposition to thresholds responses, and the adaptation of monitoring schemes to facilitate the statistical identification of non-linear relationships
Monitoring is a key component of adaptive management, and the development of large observational EU platforms is expected to deliver a wealth of data that should be used to gather empirical evidence of thresholds dynamics and to develop a predictive framework for the prevention of undesired ecosystem shifts.


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