Self-organization as a mechanism of resilience in dryland ecosystems

Sonia Kéfi*, Alexandre Génin, Angeles Garcia-Mayor, Emilio Guirado, Juliano S. Cabral, Miguel Berdugo, Josquin Guerber, Ricard Solé, Fernando T. Maestre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Self-organized spatial patterns are a common feature of complex systems, ranging from microbial communities to mussel beds and drylands. While the theoretical implications of these patterns for ecosystem-level processes, such as functioning and resilience, have been extensively studied, empirical evidence remains scarce. To address this gap, we analyzed global drylands along an aridity gradient using remote sensing, field data, and modeling. We found that the spatial structure of the vegetation strengthens as aridity increases, which is associated with the maintenance of a high level of soil multifunctionality, even as aridity levels rise up to a certain threshold. The combination of these results with those of two individual-based models indicate that self-organized vegetation patterns not only form in response to stressful environmental conditions but also provide drylands with the ability to adapt to changing conditions while maintaining their functioning, an adaptive capacity which is lost in degraded ecosystems. Self-organization thereby plays a vital role in enhancing the resilience of drylands. Overall, our findings contribute to a deeper understanding of the relationship between spatial vegetation patterns and dryland resilience. They also represent a significant step forward in the development of indicators for ecosystem resilience, which are critical tools for managing and preserving these valuable ecosystems in a warmer and more arid world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Volume121
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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