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Linking habitat modification to catastrophic shifts and vegetation patterns in bogs

By M.B. Eppinga, M.G. Rietkerk, M.J. Wassen and P.C. de Ruiter


Paleoecological studies indicate that\ud peatland ecosystems may exhibit bistability. This\ud would mean that these systems are resilient to\ud gradual changes in climate, until environmental\ud thresholds are passed. Then, ecosystem stability is\ud lost and rapid shifts in surface and vegetation\ud structure at landscape scale occur. Another remarkable\ud feature is the commonly observed self-organized\ud spatial vegetation patterning, such as string-flark\ud and maze patterns. Bistability and spatial selforganization\ud may be mechanistically linked, the\ud crucial mechanism being scale-dependent (locally\ud positive and longer-range negative) feedback between vegetation and the peatland environment. Focusing\ud on bogs, a previous model study shows that nutrient\ud accumulation by vascular plants can induce such\ud scale-dependent feedback driving pattern formation.\ud However, stability of bog microforms such as\ud hummocks and hollows has been attributed to\ud different local interactions between Sphagnum,\ud vascular plants, and the bog environment. Here we\ud analyze both local and longer-range interactions in\ud bogs to investigate the possible contribution of these\ud different interactions to vegetation patterning and\ud stability. This is done by a literature review, and\ud subsequently these findings are incorporated in the\ud original model. When Sphagnum and encompassing\ud local interactions are included in this model,\ud the boundaries between vegetation types become\ud sharper and also the parameter region of bistability\ud drastically increases. These results imply that\ud vegetation patterning and stability of bogs could\ud be synergistically governed by local and longerrange\ud interactions. Studying the relative effect of\ud these interactions is therefore suggested to be an\ud important component of future predictions on the\ud response of peatland ecosystems to climatic\ud changes

Topics: Milieukunde, Alternate stable states, Bog model, Climate change, Self-organization, Vegetation, patchiness, Vegetation switches
Year: 2007
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