Ecosystem resilience, stability, and productivity: Seeking a relationship

Lewi Stone, Albert Gabric, Tom Berman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have examined the relationship between primary productivity and the 'relative stability' or resilience of ecosystems. Our conclusions differ from a recently proposed general stability-productivity relationship that suggests that more productive ecosystems are more resilient and thus recover more rapidly from perturbations. Analyses of a range of standard ecological models and field studies fail to confirm the universality of this relationship. Even extremely simple nonlinear models, such as the well-known logistic map, were found to have surprising nonmonotonic resilience-productivity relationships, with resilience ultimately diminishing as productivity becomes large. Our results imply that resilience-productivity hypotheses are generally neither simple nor monotonic, largely because of the intrinsic nonlinearities and nonequilibrium conditions that are so characteristic to many ecosystems. A better understanding of the role of primary production in shaping ecosystem structure and function will require the development of tests and indexes that are more refined than simple equilibrium stability and resilience analyses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)892-903
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1996


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