Rethinking tipping points in spatial ecosystems

Swarnendu Banerjee, Mara Baudena, Paul Carter, Robbin Bastiaansen, Arjen Doelman, Max Rietkerk
Nonlinear Sciences, Pattern Formation and Solitons, Pattern Formation and Solitons (nlin.PS), Populations and Evolution (q-bio.PE)
2023-06-22 16:00:00
The theory of alternative stable states and tipping points has garnered a lot of attention in the last decades. It predicts potential critical transitions from one ecosystem state to a completely different state under increasing environmental stress. However, typically ecosystem models that predict tipping do not resolve space explicitly. As ecosystems are inherently spatial, it is important to understand the effects of incorporating spatial processes in models, and how those insights translate to the real world. Moreover, spatial ecosystem structures, such as vegetation patterns, are important in the prediction of ecosystem response in the face of environmental change. Models and observations from real savanna ecosystems and drylands have suggested that they may exhibit both tipping behavior as well as spatial pattern formation. Hence, in this paper, we use mathematical models of humid savannas and drylands to illustrate several pattern formation phenomena that may arise when incorporating spatial dynamics in models that exhibit tipping without resolving space. We argue that such mechanisms challenge the notion of large scale critical transitions in response to global change and reveal a more resilient nature of spatial ecosystems.
PDF: Rethinking tipping points in spatial ecosystems.pdf
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