Francis, Tessa B.; Karen C. Abbott; Kim Cuddington; Gabriel Gellner; Alan Hastings; Ying-Cheng Lai; Andrew Morozov; Sergei Petrovskii and Mary Lou Zeeman

The underlying biological processes that govern many ecological systems can create very long periods of transient dynamics. It is often difficult or impossible to distinguish this transient behaviour from similar dynamics that would persist indefinitely. In some cases, a shift from the transient to the long-term, stable dynamics may occur in the absence of any exogenous forces. Recognizing the possibility that the state of an ecosystem may be less stable than it appears is crucial to the long-term success of management strategies in systems with long transient periods. Here we demonstrate the importance of considering the potential of transient system behaviour for management actions across a range of ecosystem organizational scales and natural system types. Developing mechanistic models that capture essential system dynamics will be crucial for promoting system resilience and avoiding system collapses.