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Scale-dependent feedback and regular spatial patterns in young mussel beds.

By J. van de Koppel, M.G. Rietkerk, N. Dankers and P. Herman


In the past decade, theoretical ecologists have emphasized\ud that local interactions between predators and prey may invoke\ud emergent spatial patterning at larger spatial scales. However, empirical\ud evidence for the occurrence of emergent spatial patterning is\ud scarce, which questions the relevance of the proposed mechanisms\ud to ecological theory. We report on regular spatial patterns in young\ud mussel beds on soft sediments in the Wadden Sea. We propose that\ud scale-dependent feedback, resulting from short-range facilitation by\ud mutual protection from waves and currents and long-range competition\ud for algae, induces spatial self-organization, thereby providing\ud a possible explanation for the observed patterning. The emergent\ud self-organization affects the functioning of mussel bed ecosystems\ud by enhancing productivity and resilience against disturbance. Moreover,\ud self-organization allows mussels to persist at algal concentrations\ud that would not permit survival of mussels in a homogeneous\ud bed. Our results emphasize the importance of self-organization in\ud affecting the emergent properties of natural systems at larger spatial\ud scales

Topics: Milieukunde, regular patterns, spatially explicit models, self-organization, emergence
Year: 2005
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