EcoRe3 - Resistance, Recovery and Resilience in Long-term Ecological Systems


The EcoRe3 working group was active from 2016 to 2020.

It aimed to identify the properties that underpin ecosystem resilience in response to climate change and other disturbances. The Convention on Biological Diversity (Target 15) stated: "by 2020, ecosystem resilience and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks have been enhanced through conservation and restoration". Yet despite its importance, there is no single approach that can be used to measure ecological resilience globally and depending on the study system and context, different ‘components of resilience’ can be identified (Hodgson et al. 2015, Figure 1).

Recent attempts have used satellite data to map some components of resilience at global scales (De Keersmaecker et al. 2015, Seddon et al. 2016). However, these ecological 'snapshots' are based on measuring short-term ecological responses, and whether the patterns reflect fundamental properties of the systems, or are a result of historical disturbance legacies remains unknown. To fully understand the drivers and underlying dynamics resulting in ecological resilience requires a longer-term perspective beyond the scope normally provided using standard ecological datasets.

The biological and geochemical information preserved in sediments from lakes and bogs provides a unique opportunity to investigate the long-term dynamics related to resilience in ecological systems, since they can provide time series of past ecosystem dynamics and associated disturbances on timescales of decades to millennia (Cole et al. 2014, Willis et al. 2010). However, a current knowledge gap exists in how to move from qualitative descriptions to quantitative analyses for objective comparisons when using these data.

EcoRe3 was a network of paleoecologists, ecologists and ecological statisticians working to bridge this knowledge gap. They developed a set of standardized, quantitative approaches, focusing on measuring resistance (the amount of change following a disturbance), recovery (the speed to return to equilibrium following a disturbance) and how these components contribute to the resilience (the ability to tolerate disturbance and remain in the same state) in ecological systems using sediment data.

The goal was to develop methods which woould enable comparison within and between different biomes.

ecore3 hodgson fig1 sml


Cole LES, Bhagwat SA & Willis KJ 2014. Recovery and resilience of tropical forests after disturbance. Nature Communications, 5, 3906, doi:10.1038/ncomms4906

De Keersmaecker W et al. 2015. A model quantifying global vegetation resistance and resilience to short-term climate anomalies and their relationship with vegetation cover. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 24(5), pp.539–548.

Hodgson D, McDonald JL & Hosken DJ 2015. What do you mean, “resilient?” Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 30(9), pp.503–506.

Holling CS 1973. Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual review of ecology and systematics, pp.1–23.

Seddon AWR et al. 2016. Sensitivity of global terrestrial ecosystems to climate variability. Nature, 531, pp.229–232.

Willis KJ et al. 2010. Biodiversity baselines, thresholds and resilience: testing predictions and assumptions using palaeoecological data. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 25, pp.583–591.