New England Threshold Communities

Our goal is to determine how the distribution of distinct, easily-recognized alternate communities can be used to develop and measure the success of management decisions on local to regional scales. The main system is the Long Island Sound estuary and its complex system of multiple habitats, sub-estuaries and rivers with multiple land uses and environmental stresses, both natural and anthropogenic. This system has a diverse set of management concerns that span site-specific to habitat to regional in scale. We are focusing on the diverse set of benthic invertebrate communities that are integral to multiple habitats, have a diversity of species and life-histories, and exist in at least four known community states. Our modeling is directed at the transitions among these communities. The two main objectives are:

1. To examine the global, regional, and local processes that cause switches among threshold states and under what conditions these states remain resilient and unchanged.

2. To evaluate adaptive management strategies for this system in the face of climate change.

Diagram showing four threshold communities and the processes stabilizing them or causing them to switch to another threshold community.