Table 2 Empirical evidence for long ecological transients.
Population(s)Observed patternDuration
Laboratory population
of beetles
(Tribolium spp.) (25)
Switch from a regime with an almost constant density
to large-amplitude oscillations
(70 weeks)
Growth of macrophytes in
shallow eutrophic lakes
in the Netherlands (46)
Switch from a macrophyte-dominated state to a turbid
water state
1 to 51 to 5
Population of
benthic fishes
on the Scotian Shelf
of Canada’s
east coast (27)
Switch from a forage fish (and macroinvertebrate)–dominated
state to a benthic fish–dominated state
5 to 820
Coral and microalgae in
the Caribbean (47, 48)
Shifts from coral to macroalgal dominance on coral reefs20 to 25 (corals);
50 to 100 (macroalgae)
Voles, grouse in
Europe (59)
Switch between cyclic and noncyclic regimes, or between
cyclic regimes with different periodicity
60 (voles); 20 to 30
(lemmings); 5 (grouse)
Dungeness crab
(Cancer magister) (53)
Large-amplitude transient oscillations with further
relaxation to equilibrium
10 to 1545
interactions in
temperate lakes in
Germany (26)
Variation of amplitude and period of predator-prey
oscillations across the season
80 to 100 (algae);
5 to 8 (zooplankton)
Planktonic species in
chemostat and
lakes (72)
Long-term variation of species densities, with extinction
of some species
40 to 100~0.05 to 0.15
(3 to 8 weeks)
Laboratory microbial
communities (56)
Slow switch between alternative stable states20 to 400.11 to 0.21
(6 to 12 weeks)
Grass community
in abandoned
agricultural fields
in the Netherlands (57)
Long-term existence of a large number of alternative
transient states
Extinction debt
phenomena as
a consequence
of habitat loss
[plants, birds, fish,
lichens, and others (60)]
Long-term extinction of populations, occurring
either steadily or via oscillations
20 to 100 (or more)1 to 100
Fish and invertebrates
in watersheds in western
North Carolina,
USA (49)
Influence of past habitat structure on present
biodiversity patterns after restoration
10 to 20 (fish);
40 (invertebrates)
Modeled spruce budworm
outbreaks in balsam
fir forests (2)
Budworm outbreaks driven by slow
changes in condition of fir foliage
5 (refoliation);
50+ (budworm)