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Ecological collapse refers to a situation where an ecosystem suffers a drastic, possibly permanent, reduction in carrying capacity for all organisms, often resulting in mass extinction. Usually, an ecological collapse is precipitated by a disastrous event occurring on a short time scale.
Ecosystems have the ability to rebound from a disruptive agent. The difference between collapse or a gentle rebound is determined by two factors —- the toxicity of the introduced element and the resiliency of the original ecosystem.
Through natural selection the planet's species have continuously adapted to change through variation in their biological composition and distribution. Mathematically it can be demonstrated that greater numbers of different biological factors tend to dampen fluctuations in each of the individual factors.
Prehistoric examples include the Carboniferous Rainforest Collapse, the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, the Permian–Triassic extinction event, and other mass extinctions. These have been attributed to asteroid impacts, extremely large volcanic eruptions, and abrupt climate change.
Important pressures contributing to current and future ecological collapse include habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, overexploitation of ecosystems by humans, climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, and invasive species.
- Environmental degradation
- Overshoot (ecology)
- Arctic shrinkage
- Risks to civilization, humans and planet Earth: Ecological disasters
- "Living Planet Report". World Wildlife Fund.