Marten Scheffer and dynamical systems in NYT

Good to see a nod to Marten Scheffer in yesterday’s NYT — in an op-ed (“Searching for Clues to Calamity“) by Scientific American executive editor Fred Guterl:

Scheffer, a biologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, … grew up swimming in clear lowland ponds. In the 1980s, many of these ponds turned turbid. The plants would die, algae would cover the surface, and only bottom-feeding fish remained. The cause — fertilizer runoff from nearby farms — was well known, but even after you stopped the runoff, replanted the lilies and restocked the trout, the ponds would stay dark and scummy. …

By applying the principles of dynamical systems, Mr. Scheffer was able to figure out that to fix the ponds, he had to remove the fish that thrive in the turbid water. They stir up sediment, which blocks sunlight from plants, and eat the zooplankton that keep the water clear. His program of fixing the Netherlands’ ponds and lakes is legendary in ecology.

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