Shifting ecosystems, past, current, and emerging trends: A bibliometric analysis and systematic review of literature

Andisa A. Mufungizi, Walter Musakwa, Nelson Chanza

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The combined effects of climate change and anthropogenic forces are causing alterations in ecosystems. These adjustments lead to ecosystem tipping points and subsequently to shifting ecosystems and are believed to negatively affect communities with ecosystem-dependent livelihoods. Ostensibly, there has been little to no attention given to the review of literature on the phenomenon of shifting ecosystems. Therefore, this article examines how the concept of shifting ecosystems has evolved amidst growing pressure from climate change and human activities. This is done by employing bibliometric analysis and a qualitative review of literature on shifting ecosystems using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) technique. A bibliometric analysis of 2000 documents retrieved from Scopus database was conducted using the capabilities of the VOSviewer along with a further qualitative analysis of 65 articles. It was observed that shifting ecosystem literature can be characterized by 8 broad categories. These are evolutionary adaptation, regime shift/range shift and ecosystem restructuring, range shift and invasive species, range shift and species distribution, elevational and altitudinal shift, regime shift modelling, hydrological shift, and regime shift and invasive species. Likewise, shifting ecosystem literature is fragmented in scope, and studies exhibited lack a sense of progressive methodological development and overall visionary thrust. It is recommended that future research should consider the social impacts of predicted species distributions, species range shifts, and ecosystem shifts under future climate scenarios. This is because humans depend on ecosystem services to sustain their lives, especially in the context of rural areas. It is also recommended that international collaboration and transdisciplinary research should be encouraged in shifting ecosystem literature to address the issue of poor coordination and of fragmented scope.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111175
JournalEcological Indicators
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • Bibliometric
  • Climate change
  • Range shift
  • Regime shift
  • Shifting ecosystem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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