A traditional assumption in quantitative ecology is that the asymptotic state of the model determines what can be observed in the evolution of the system. It is suggested, however, that irregular transient behaviors may be more relevant than the long term behaviors. Here we investigate how often transient dynamics can be expected in spatially extended ecological systems. Our study suggests that although chaotic transient dynamics indeed exist, sustained dynamics may be more prevalent than transient ones due to the high dimensionality of such systems. (C) 2001 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.