Ocean Tipping Points

Principal Investigator(s): 

Carrie Kappel, Ben Halpern, and Kim Selkoe

Sometimes, small changes can have dramatic outcomes, a phenomenon known as a tipping point. In oceans, causes could be changes in climate or the introduction of a nonnative species, for example, and the consequences can be devastating for both the ecosystem and the people who depend on it – from dying coral reefs to collapsed fisheries.

The Ocean Tipping Points project is a multi-year study to synthesize everything known about this phenomenon, especially amid an increasing and alarming prevalence of them. When, where, and how do these shifts occur? How can ocean managers better anticipate, avoid, and respond to them?

The project brings together ecologists, lawyers, social scientists, and ocean managers to approach this challenge from research to implementation, with case studies in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia and Hawaii. Their collective goal is to turn the expanding scientific knowledge of ocean tipping points into management solutions.

A major product of the project so far is the Ocean Tipping Points Portal, a collection of resources to guide the management of our changing oceans.

Visit the PortalMore Information for Project Participants

We are grateful to conduct this work with the following partners: Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Council of the Haida Nation, and the State of Hawaii.

This work is supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the State of California. Its original title was "Ecosystem thresholds and indicators for marine spatial planning."

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New Study to Examine Ecological Tipping Points in Hopes of Preventing Them (UCSB press release)