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Grazing away the resilience of patterned ecosystems


Siero, Eric; Siteur, Koen; Doelman, Arjen; Koppel, Johan van de; Rietkerk, Max; Eppinga, Maarten B (2019). Grazing away the resilience of patterned ecosystems. American Naturalist, 193(3):472-480.

Abstract

Ecosystems' responses to changing environmental conditions can be modulated by spatial self-organization. A prominent example of this can be found in drylands, where formation of vegetation patterns attenuates the magnitude of degradation events in response to decreasing rainfall. In model studies, the pattern wavelength responds to changing conditions, which is reflected by a rather gradual decline in biomass in response to decreasing rainfall. Although these models are spatially explicit, they have adopted a mean-field approach to grazing. By taking into account spatial variability when modeling grazing, we find that (over)grazing can lead to a dramatic shift in biomass, so that degradation occurs at rainfall rates that would otherwise still maintain a relatively productive ecosystem. Moreover, grazing increases the resilience of degraded ecosystem states. Consequently, restoration of degraded ecosystems could benefit from the introduction of temporary small-scale exclosures to escape from the basin of attraction of degraded states.

Abstract

Ecosystems' responses to changing environmental conditions can be modulated by spatial self-organization. A prominent example of this can be found in drylands, where formation of vegetation patterns attenuates the magnitude of degradation events in response to decreasing rainfall. In model studies, the pattern wavelength responds to changing conditions, which is reflected by a rather gradual decline in biomass in response to decreasing rainfall. Although these models are spatially explicit, they have adopted a mean-field approach to grazing. By taking into account spatial variability when modeling grazing, we find that (over)grazing can lead to a dramatic shift in biomass, so that degradation occurs at rainfall rates that would otherwise still maintain a relatively productive ecosystem. Moreover, grazing increases the resilience of degraded ecosystem states. Consequently, restoration of degraded ecosystems could benefit from the introduction of temporary small-scale exclosures to escape from the basin of attraction of degraded states.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 March 2019
Deposited On:09 Jan 2020 13:50
Last Modified:09 Jan 2020 13:51
Publisher:University of Chicago Press
ISSN:0003-0147
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1086/701669

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