Ecosystem properties self-organize in response to a directional fog-vegetation interaction

Daniel E. Stanton, Juan J. Armesto, Lars O. Hedin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Feedbacks between vegetation and resource inputs can lead to the local, selforganization of ecosystem properties. In particular, feedbacks in response to directional resources (e.g., coastal fog, slope runoff ) can create complex spatial patterns, such as vegetation banding. Although similar feedbacks are thought to be involved in the development of ecosystems, clear empirical examples are rare. We created a simple model of a foginfluenced, temperate rainforest in central Chile, which allows the comparison of natural banding patterns to simulations of various putative mechanisms. We show that only feedbacks between plants and fog were able to replicate the characteristic distributions of vegetation, soil water, and soil nutrients observed in field transects. Other processes, such as rainfall, were unable to match these diagnostic distributions. Furthermore, fog interception by windward trees leads to increased downwind mortality, leading to progressive extinction of the leeward edge. This pattern of ecosystem development and decay through self-organized processes illustrates, on a relatively small spatial and temporal scale, the patterns predicted for ecosystem evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1203-1212
Number of pages10
JournalEcology
Volume95
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2014

Keywords

  • Chile
  • Ecosystem
  • Fog
  • Forest patch
  • Self-organization
  • Temperate rainforest
  • Vegetation Banding

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