Affordable Access

Vegetation pattern formation in a fog-dependent ecosystem

Journal of Theoretical Biology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.04.020
  • Catastrophic Shifts
  • Fog-Water Flow
  • Slope
  • Mortality
  • Water-Limitation
  • Biology
  • Ecology


Abstract Vegetation pattern formation is a striking characteristic of several water-limited ecosystems around the world. Typically, they have been described on runoff-based ecosystems emphasizing local interactions between water, biomass interception, growth and dispersal. Here, we show that this situation is by no means general, as banded patterns in vegetation can emerge in areas without rainfall and in plants without functional root (the Bromeliad Tillandsia landbeckii) and where fog is the principal source of moisture. We show that a simple model based on the advection of fog-water by wind and its interception by the vegetation can reproduce banded patterns which agree with empirical patterns observed in the Coastal Atacama Desert. Our model predicts how the parameters may affect the conditions to form the banded pattern, showing a transition from a uniform vegetated state, at high water input or terrain slope to a desert state throughout intermediate banded states. Moreover, the model predicts that the pattern wavelength is a decreasing non-linear function of fog-water input and slope, and an increasing function of plant loss and fog-water flow speed. Finally, we show that the vegetation density is increased by the formation of the regular pattern compared to the density expected by the spatially homogeneous model emphasizing the importance of self-organization in arid ecosystems.

There are no comments yet on this publication. Be the first to share your thoughts.