Ecological stability in times of rapid environmental change (archive)

Last changed: 30 March 2023
A stream, photo.

The FoSW research school and the Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU invited PhD students to attend the post graduate course Ecological stability in times of rapid environmental change.

The course was given 15 – 19 October, 2018.

Schedule Ecological Stability Course 2018 (pdf).

Course content

Human actions challenge nature in many ways. Ecosystems absorb and respond to multiple types of environmental change, encompassing stochastic to periodic fluctuations as well as pulse and press disturbances. Ecological responses are ineluctably complex, demanding measures that describe them. Collectively, these measures encapsulate the overall ‘stability’ of the system. Many international bodies, including the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, broadly aspire to maintain or enhance ecological stability. Ecological ‘stability’ is the core concept describing potential responses to such changes, a concept of central importance for understanding present-day and predicting future ecosystem dynamics. This knowledge is a pre-condition for ecosystem management and environmental policy in the face of rapid environmental change. The scientific approach to stability, however, has been characterised by a multitude of stability measures used, with at times blurred and often non-exclusive definitions. Disturbances and stability are multidimensional. Our understanding of them is not. We have a remarkably poor understanding of the impacts on stability.

During the course we will guide course participants through the theoretical concepts and dimensions of stability across different spatial and time scales to aid discussions and hypothesis development to be able prepare you to develop your own research with the future aim to integrate results with policies and actions.


The course have two parts: The first week is to prepare for the course by reading a suggested list of publications and preparing a short presentation of your own research project and thoughts of how it links to the course theme. The second week is five full day sessions, each including lectures, discussions and other exercises together with course participants and teachers.


Course leader: Stina Drakare, SLU, Uppsala


  • Prof. Helmut Hillebrand, Carl-von-Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany
  • David Angeler, SLU, Uppsala
  • Thorsten Blenckner, Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm University
  • Brendan McKie, SLU, Uppsala
  • Dorothee Hodapp, Carl-von-Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany

Intended learning outcomes

After the course, students should be able to:

  • Discuss and evaluate different definitions of ecological stability
  • Relate these concepts to ecosystem management and conservation
  • Apply the key theoretical underpinnings of ecological stability research in developing their own research topics
  • Developing own hypotheses on ecological stability and to discuss approaches to test them
  • Identify methods for quantifying ecological stability that are appropriate for their own research topic
  • Evaluate the value of ecological stability in bioassessment, particularly in relation to their own research topic, and discuss advantages and possible difficulties of these approaches


No specific textbook is used. Course literature will be distributed prior to the course, and additional hand-outs and supplementary material are distributed during the course, as necessary.

We suggest that you read the following articles to prepare for the course:


This course was organized by the Research School Focus on Soil and Waters and the August T. Larsson Guest Professor program by the NJ Faculty at SLU.