Marten Scheffer currently leads the Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management group at Wageningen University. He is interested in unraveling the mechanisms that determine the stability and resilience of complex systems. Although much of his work has focused on the ecosystems of lakes, he also worked with a range of scientists from other disciplines to address issues of stability and shifts in natural and social systems. Examples include the feedback between atmospheric carbon and the earth temperature, the collapse of ancient societies, inertia and shifts in public opinion, evolutionary emergence of patterns of species similarity, the effect of climatic extremes on forest dynamics and the balance of facilitation and competition in plant communities. In 2009, he received the NWO Spinoza Prize for his pioneering contributions to our understanding of critical transitions in complex systems, varying from shifts in shallow lakes to climate change and the collapse of ancient cultures. He now works on finding generic early warning signals for critical transitions.
He is member of the editorial boards of ‘Ecosystems’ and ‘Ecology and Society’, and wrote two scientific books (‘Ecology of Shallow Lakes’ with Kluwer and ‘Critical Transitions in Nature and Society’ with Princeton University press), and a popular science book (‘Vijver, Sloot en Plas’ with Jan Cuppen for Tirion publishers). Scheffer is at the Scientific Boards of the Beijer Institute and the European Santa Fe institute ‘Para Limens’. He is currently working with a team from ten countries to set up the ‘South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies’ SARAS.
Plenary Address: Foreseeing Critical Transitions (Scheffer Plenary Abstract)