The current issue of Theoretical Ecology is dedicated on Early Warnings and Tipping Points in Ecology. This special issue was co-edited by Vasilis Dakos and Alan Hastings and contains 11 original research papers from key contributors of the topic. You can find a complete list of content here. We hope it will have a strong impact in the further development of anticipating regime shifts in complex systems. It will be highlighted in the upcoming ESA conference in Minneapolis.
Critical transitions in experimental and theoretical systems can be anticipated on the basis of specific warning signs, raising the prospect that it might also be possible to predict future real-world events on the scale of the 2007 global financial crisis and Arab spring. But what to measure? Recent work has focused on critical slowing down, in which a system’s recovery from perturbation is reduced as the transition is approached. Another possibility is flickering, in which increasing shifts between alternative stable states are seen in the run-up to the transition. This study uses long-term data from a real system, a Chinese lake, to show that flickering can be observed and that it occurs up to 20 years before a critical transition — in this case the deterioration of a lake towards a dead ‘eutrophic’ state as algal growth consumes the last available oxygen. (from the editor’s summary in Nature)