SparcS Center

Marten Scheffer

photo by Manon Bruininga 

Marten Scheffer is interested in unravelling the mechanisms that determine the stability and resilience of complex systems. Although much of his work has focused on ecosystems, he also worked with a range of scientists from other disciplines to address issues of stability and shifts in natural and social systems. Examples include the feedback between atmospheric carbon and the earth temperature, the collapse of ancient societies, inertia and shifts in public opinion, evolutionary emergence of patterns of species similarity, the effect of climatic extremes on forest dynamics and the balance of facilitation and competition in plant communities. With the help of a Spinoza award and an ERC advanced grant he founded SparcS and now works on finding generic early warning signals for critical transitions. He also co-founded the ‘South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies’ SARAS and is currently a distinguished professor at Wageningen University

An example of a lecture by Marten Scheffer at the Stockholm Resilience Center.

cartoon by Henk van Ruitenbeek 

Marten Scheffer is also a musician, playing violin, mandoline and guitar. For examples of his work see his website

Concerted Science
Concerted Science in an experiment in combining reason and intuition in a performance with music and science (see announcement [in Dutch]). It has been performed in 2012 and 2013. 

See concerted science for one of the shows (50 minutes in Dutch with English subtitles).

Latest book

A book on critical transitions with examples 
from ecosystems, climate and social systems.

just released
A cd with new compositions for percussion, 
wind and string instruments.




Publication list (Google Scholar) 


Some selected publications:


Creating a safe operating space for iconic ecosystems

Scheffer, M., Barrett, S., Carpenter, S.R., Folke, C., Green, A.J., Holmgren, M., Hughes, T.P., Kosten, S., van de Leemput, I.A., Nepstad, D.C., van Nes, E.H., Peeters, E.T.H.M. & Walker, B. (2015)

Science 347 (6228):1317-1319 [Full text]

The forgotten half of scientific thinking

Scheffer, M. (2014)

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111 (17):6119 [Full text]

Critical slowing down as early warning for the onset and termination of depression

van de Leemput, I.A., Wichers, M., Cramer, A.O.J., Borsboom, D., Tuerlinckx, F., Kuppens, P., van Nes, E.H., Viechtbauer, W., Giltay, E.J., Aggen, S.H., Derom, C., Jacobs, N., Kendler, K.S., van der Maas, H.L.J., Neale, M.C., Peeters, F., Thiery, E., Zachar, P. & Scheffer, M. (2014)

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (1):87-92 [Full text]

Anticipating critical transitions

Scheffer, M., Carpenter, S.R., Lenton, T.M., Bascompte, J., Brock, W., Dakos, V., van de Koppel, J., van de Leemput, I.A., Levin, S.A., van Nes, E.H., Pascual, M. & Vandermeer, J. (2012)

Science 338 (6105):344-348 [Full text]

Early-warning signals for critical transitions

Scheffer, M., Bascompte, J., Brock, W.A., Brovkin, V., Carpenter, S.R., Dakos, V., Held, H., van Nes, E.H., Rietkerk, M. & Sugihara, G. (2009)

Nature 461 (7260):53-59 [Full text]

Slowing down as an early warning signal for abrupt climate change

Dakos, V., Scheffer, M., van Nes, E.H., Brovkin, V., Petoukhov, V. & Held, H. (2008)

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105 (38):14308–14312 [Full text]