A resilience sensing system for the biosphere

Timothy M. Lenton, Joshua E. Buxton, David I. Armstrong McKay, Jesse F. Abrams, Chris A. Boulton, Kirsten Lees, Thomas W.R. Powell, Niklas Boers, Andrew M. Cunliffe, Vasilis Dakos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We are in a climate and ecological emergency, where climate change and direct anthropogenic interference with the biosphere are risking abrupt and/or irreversible changes that threaten our life-support systems. Efforts are underway to increase the resilience of some ecosystems that are under threat, yet collective awareness and action are modest at best. Here, we highlight the potential for a biosphere resilience sensing system to make it easier to see where things are going wrong, and to see whether deliberate efforts to make things better are working. We focus on global resilience sensing of the terrestrial biosphere at high spatial and temporal resolution through satellite remote sensing, utilizing the generic mathematical behaviour of complex systems-loss of resilience corresponds to slower recovery from perturbations, gain of resilience equates to faster recovery. We consider what subset of biosphere resilience remote sensing can monitor, critically reviewing existing studies. Then we present illustrative, global results for vegetation resilience and trends in resilience over the last 20 years, from both satellite data and model simulations. We close by discussing how resilience sensing nested across global, biome-ecoregion, and local ecosystem scales could aid management and governance at these different scales, and identify priorities for further work. This article is part of the theme issue 'Ecological complexity and the biosphere: the next 30 years'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20210383
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1857
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2022


  • Biosphere
  • Climate change
  • Ecosystems
  • Recovery rate
  • Remote sensing
  • Resilience


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