There’ll be a domino effect as we trigger ecosystem tipping points | New Scientist
Peterson’s team has analysed 300 ecosystems with potential tipping points or regime changes. For instance, as rainfall increases grasslands can suddenly turn into forests, and vice versa.
The study suggests that almost half of them are linked. For example, more extreme rainfall from global heating can greatly increase soil erosion, especially on degraded farmland, and carry more phosphorus into rivers, lakes and the sea. This can trigger algal blooms and red tides, and amplify the decline in oxygen that occurs as waters warm. This leads to even bigger aquatic “dead zones” with low oxygen, which can have further knock-on effects.
What the team’s work shows is that crossing one tipping point increases the risk of crossing another and so triggering a whole cascade of effects. And we may not even recognise the danger until it is too late, Peterson says.