, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp 406–417

Spatial Resilience of Coral Reefs

  • Magnus Nyström
  • Carl Folke

DOI: 10.1007/s10021-001-0019-y

Cite this article as:
Nyström, M. & Folke, C. Ecosystems (2001) 4: 406. doi:10.1007/s10021-001-0019-y


There have been several earlier studies that addressed the influence of natural disturbance regimes on coral reefs. Humans alter natural disturbance regimes, introduce new stressors, and modify background conditions of reefs. We focus on how coral reef ecosystems relate to disturbance in an increasingly human-dominated environment. The concept of ecosystem resilience—that is, the capacity of complex systems with multiple stable states to absorb disturbance, reorganize, and adapt to change—is central in this context. Instead of focusing on the recovery of certain species and populations within disturbed sites of individual reefs, we address spatial resilience—that is, the dynamic capacity of a reef matrix to reorganize and maintain ecosystem function following disturbance. The interplay between disturbance and ecosystem resilience is highlighted. We begin the identification of spatial sources of resilience in dynamic seascapes and exemplify and discuss the relation between “ecological memory” (biological legacies, mobile link species, and support areas) and functional diversity for seascape resilience. Managing for resilience in dynamic seascapes not only enhances the likelihood of conserving coral reefs, it also provides insurance to society by sustaining essential ecosystem services.

Key words: coral reefs; disturbance; resilience; spatial resilience; ecological memory; mobile links; management.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Magnus Nyström
    • 1
  • Carl Folke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, S-106 91, SwedenSE
  2. 2.Beijer International Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, SwedenSE