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Multiple Stable States in Natural Ecosystems$
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Peter Petraitis

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199569342

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199569342.001.0001

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Catastrophe theory

Catastrophe theory

(p.65) 5 Catastrophe theory
Multiple Stable States in Natural Ecosystems

Peter Petraitis

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the Catastrophe Theory, particularly its standpoint in the well-known conventional views of multiple stable states. It discusses why the theory has been widely used by mathematicians, chemists, and physicists, but disregarded by most ecologists. The most infamous proponent of catastrophe theory is René Thom, who developed the topology of catastrophes. Thom showed that for systems with one or two state variables and four or fewer parameters, there are seven elementary catastrophes or basic models that contain discontinuous jumps. The chapter also presents different ecological examples supporting the theory.

Keywords:   Catastrophe Theory, multiple stable states, mathematicians, chemists, physicists, ecologists, René Thom

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