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Local facilitation, bistability and transitions in arid ecosystems

By S. Kéfi, M.G. Rietkerk, M. van Baalen and M. Loreau


Arid ecosystems are liable to undergo sudden discontinuous transitions from a vegetated to a desert state as a result of human pressure\ud and climate change. A predictive framework about the conditions under which such transitions occur is lacking. Here, we derive and\ud analyze a general model describing the spatial dynamics of vegetation in arid ecosystems considering local facilitation as an essential\ud process. We investigate the conditions under which continuous or discontinuous transitions from a vegetated to a desert state are likely to\ud occur. We focus on arid ecosystems but our approach is sufficiently general to be applied to other ecosystems with severe environmental\ud conditions. The model exhibits bistability and vegetation patchiness. High local facilitation decreases the risk of discontinuous\ud transitions. Moreover, for arid ecosystems where local facilitation is a driving process, vegetation patchiness indicates proximity to a\ud transition point, but does not allow distinguishing between continuous and discontinuous transitions

Topics: Milieukunde, Bistability, Cellular automaton, Continuous transition, Desertification, Discontinuous transition, Pair approximation, Spatial selforganization, Vegetation patchiness
Year: 2007
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