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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Two orange fish poking their heads out of coral

Small changes can sometimes have dramatic outcomes, a phenomenon known as a tipping point. For oceans, changes in water temperature or the introduction of a nonnative species, for example, could have devastating consequences that affect both ecosystems and people – from dying coral reefs to collapsed fisheries.

The Ocean Tipping Points project was 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 brought 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 was to turn the expanding scientific knowledge of ocean tipping points into management solutions.

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

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."