People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Beyond Hysteresis: Meta-thresholds and mirage regimes in social and ecological systems


Monday 20 October, 12:00 pm

ARC Centre of Excellence Conference Room, JCU (DB44). Video-link to Centre for Marine Studies, UQ
Dr Toby Elmhirst

Toby is from Yorkshire in the UK. He was a philosophy and maths undergraduate and got his PhD in maths from Warwick University. Since then he has been an itinerant mathematician, working on “Coupled Cell Systems” at the University of Houston (2003-2005) and adaptive radiation and “Pod Systems” at the University of British Columbia (2005-2007). He is currently trying to understand resilience in coupled social-ecological systems using the theories of singularities and bifurcations.


In this talk I will present an overview of a number of themes relating to hysteresis and its role in the theory of social and ecological resilience. First, I will set hysteresis in its proper context, and show how this expanded view of regime shifts can lead to novel management strategies based on the notion of a “meta-threshold”. Second, I will present a model that describes the dynamics of occupations in a community, and specifically, how the number of people in the fishing industry can change with changes in fish stocks. Unsurprisingly, this model exhibits hysteresis (along with more complicated behaviour), and leads to the natural question; What happens when a hysteretic social system is coupled to a hysteretic ecosystem? The answer (which involves the notion of a “mirage regime”) raises important problems for managers of these systems, to which I will attempt to provide some general solutions. Finally, I will present a simple extension to a model describing the dynamics of coral cover on a grazed reef ecosystem to study the effects that recruitment of both beneficial and detrimental elements can have on the structure of regimes and the possibilities for sudden transitions.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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