The search for tipping points in heterogeneous landscapes

This symposium intends to kick-start research on “Tipping points in heterogeneous landscapes”  which is funded as an Emerging Science Topic by the research school PE&RC. Natural systems contain nonlinear positive feedbacks and can alternate between alternative stable states via tipping points. Furthermore, in spatially explicit systems feedbacks underlie pattern formation. Thus far, very limited attention has been paid to explicit spatial heterogeneity, while in fact most systems on landscape scales are heterogeneous. In this symposium we seek to answer the following questions: What are (alternative) stable states in the context of heterogeneous landscapes? How can we identify tipping points between these states? Can we prevent or even promote tipping points in landscapes to our benefit?


10:00  Coffee / Tea

10:15  Welcome / Opening


10:30  Early warning of biosphere tipping points,

Timothy Lenton, University of Exeter, department of Geography.

11:15  Going underground: ecosystem functioning under global change,

Franciska de Vries, University of Manchester, Soil and Ecosystem Ecology, Faculty of Life Sciences.

12:00  Lunch


13:00  Ecohydrological optimality and pattern formation,

Stanislaus Schymanski, ETH Zurich, Soil and Terrestrial Environmental Physics.

13:45  Ecohydrological feedbacks,

Stefan Dekker, Utrecht University, research group of Environmental Sciences.

14:30  Coffee / Tea


15:00  Nonlinear Postcards From the Edge: Thresholds & Tipping Points in Geomorphology, Jonathan Phillips, University of Kentucky, department of geography.

15:45  Global Resilience of Tropical Forest and Savanna to Critical Transitions,

Egbert van Nes, Wageningen University, Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management.


16:30  Panel discussion

17:00  Closing / Drinks


Organisation: Ype van der Velde, Arnaud Temme, George van Voorn, Ryan Teuling, Lammert Kooistra, and Merel Soons.


Participation is free of charge for Wageningen and PE&RC members. Registration is required for all attendees of the Symposium. To register please send an email to with your name/organization; please indicate if you have any dietary requirements.