ABSTRACT. Ecosystem regime shifts, which are long-term system reorganizations, have profound implications for sustainability. There is a great need for indicators of regime shifts, particularly methods that are applicable to data from real systems. We have developed a form of Fisher information that measures dynamic order in complex systems. Here we propose the use of Fisher information as a means of: (1) detecting dynamic regime shifts in ecosystems, and (2) assessing the quality of the shift in terms of intensity and pervasiveness. Intensity is reflected by the degree of change in dynamic order, as determined by Fisher information, and pervasiveness is a reflection of how many observable variables are affected by the change. We present a new robust methodology to calculate Fisher information from time series field data. We demonstrate the use of Fisher information to detect regime shifts on a model for a shallow lake. Next, we use Fisher information to analyze marine ecosystem response to physical changes using real time-series data of a coastal marine ecosystem, the North Pacific Ocean.
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