Thermohaline feedback loops and Natural Capital


  • Tom Sawyer Hopkins Dept. MEAS



thermohaline, circulation feedback Loops, natural capital, biocomplexity, Arctic, Mediterranean, Pamlico Sound


Human interference now represents an inextricable component of all major ecosystems. Whether this is through top-down overharvesting of ecosystem production or bottom-up alteration (deliberate or inadvertent) of the abiotic conditions, the planet´s ecosphere is in a vicious degradation cycle. For our economy to shift from exploiting to sustaining the natural systems, the solution, if there is to be one, will involve incorporation of the value of natural capital into the economic and political feedback loop. For the science sector, this will involve developing methodologies to evaluate the nonlinear and behavioral dynamics of entire systems in ways that can be coupled with economic models. One essential characteristic of systems science involves the interactions between internal components and external systems. Thermohaline circulations and their feedback loops illustrate a class of such interactive pathways. Examples from the Arctic, Mediterranean, and the US East Coast along with some of their associated ecological impacts are reviewed. Understanding how thermohaline interactions provide stability to the marine biotic environment and under what conditions this stability could be destabilized is a fundamental step toward evaluating the non-linear response of marine systems to anthropogenic stress.


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How to Cite

Sawyer Hopkins T. Thermohaline feedback loops and Natural Capital. scimar [Internet]. 2001Dec.30 [cited 2023May31];65(S2):231-56. Available from: