Editor's Choice December

Submitted by editor on 6 December 2016.

We chose the forum paper of Siteur and colleagues as our first EC for the December issue. The forum focusses on how relevant deviations from steady-state may change predictions of critical transitions and resilience in current ecosystem models. Such a perspective is especially relevant within the context of ongoing rapid environmental change through anthropogenic impact. By critically evaluating the impact of this rate of change in established model and linking the model assumptions with experimental evidence, they demonstrate that ecosystems with coupled fast–slow dynamics, exhibiting repetitive catastrophic shifts or displaying periodic spatial patterns are more likely to be rate sensitive, and thus that habitat degradation in such subsets of ecosystems cannot be explained by concepts like resilience and planetary boundaries.

The meta-analysis of Edge and colleagues was selected as a the second editor’s  choice. Using amphibians as a model, they test to which degree critical transitions in life history (metamorphosis) depend on environmental variation, and to which degree these responses are general across multiple taxa. While responses to resource availability were consistent, responses to predators appeared to be more variable in terms of effect size and direction. The work thus opens an interesting question on whether the predictability of environmental changes is general for habitat or population-specific factors, but not for changes resulting from changes in species-interactions and thus communities.

Dries Bonte

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