Table of Contents
ISRN Ecology
Volume 2012, Article ID 274510, 18 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.5402/2012/274510
Review Article

Self-Organizing Processes in Landscape Pattern and Resilience: A Review

Biology Department, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124, USA

Received 27 August 2012; Accepted 24 October 2012

Academic Editors: S. C. Dekker, H. Sanderson, and C. J. Topping

Copyright © 2012 Donald L. DeAngelis. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Environmental conditions influence the way different types of vegetation are distributed on various scales from the landscape to the globe. However, vegetation does not simply respond passively but may influence its environment in ways that shape those distributions. On the landscape scale, feedbacks from vegetation can lead to patterns that are not easily interpreted as merely reflecting external abiotic conditions. For example, sharp ecotones exist between two vegetation types, even if the basic abiotic gradient is slight, somewhere along the gradient. These are observed in transitions between numerous pairs of ecosystem types, such as tree/grassland, tree/mire, tree tundra, and halophytic plants/glycophytic plants. More complex spatial vegetation patterns may also exist, such as alternating stripes or irregular patterns of either two types of vegetation or vegetation and bare soil. One purpose of this paper is to emphasize that these two types of patterns, sharp ecotones between vegetation types and large-scale landscape patterns of vegetation, both have a common basis in the concept of bistability, in which alternative stable states can occur on an area of land. Another purpose is to note that an understanding of the basis of these patterns may ultimately help in management decisions.