Termite mounds can increase the robustness of dryland ecosystems to climatic change

Juan A. Bonachela, Robert M. Pringle, Efrat Sheffer, Tyler C. Coverdale, Jennifer A. Guyton, Kelly K. Caylor, Simon A. Levin, Corina E. Tarnita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

89 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Self-organized spatial vegetation patterning is widespread and has been described using models of scale-dependent feedback between plants and water on homogeneous substrates. As rainfall decreases, these models yield a characteristic sequence of patterns with increasingly sparse vegetation, followed by sudden collapse to desert. Thus, the final, spot-like pattern may provide early warning for such catastrophic shifts. In many arid ecosystems, however, termite nests impart substrate heterogeneity by altering soil properties, thereby enhancing plant growth.We show that termite-induced heterogeneity interacts with scale-dependent feedbacks to produce vegetation patterns at different spatial grains. Although the coarse-grained patterning resembles that created by scale-dependent feedback alone, it does not indicate imminent desertification. Rather, mound-field landscapes are more robust to aridity, suggesting that termites may help stabilize ecosystems under global change.

LanguageEnglish
Pages651-655
Number of pages5
JournalScience
Volume347
Issue number6222
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2015

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Vegetation
Ecosystem
Patterning
Robustness
Dependent
Substrate
Early Warning
Nest
Rainfall
Soil
Water
Decrease
Model

Keywords

  • termite mounds
  • dryland ecosystems
  • global change

Cite this

Bonachela, J. A., Pringle, R. M., Sheffer, E., Coverdale, T. C., Guyton, J. A., Caylor, K. K., ... Tarnita, C. E. (2015). Termite mounds can increase the robustness of dryland ecosystems to climatic change. Science, 347(6222), 651-655. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1261487
Bonachela, Juan A. ; Pringle, Robert M. ; Sheffer, Efrat ; Coverdale, Tyler C. ; Guyton, Jennifer A. ; Caylor, Kelly K. ; Levin, Simon A. ; Tarnita, Corina E. / Termite mounds can increase the robustness of dryland ecosystems to climatic change. In: Science. 2015 ; Vol. 347, No. 6222. pp. 651-655.
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Bonachela, JA, Pringle, RM, Sheffer, E, Coverdale, TC, Guyton, JA, Caylor, KK, Levin, SA & Tarnita, CE 2015, 'Termite mounds can increase the robustness of dryland ecosystems to climatic change' Science, vol. 347, no. 6222, pp. 651-655. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1261487

Termite mounds can increase the robustness of dryland ecosystems to climatic change. / Bonachela, Juan A.; Pringle, Robert M.; Sheffer, Efrat; Coverdale, Tyler C.; Guyton, Jennifer A.; Caylor, Kelly K.; Levin, Simon A.; Tarnita, Corina E.

In: Science, Vol. 347, No. 6222, 06.02.2015, p. 651-655.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AU - Bonachela, Juan A.

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Bonachela JA, Pringle RM, Sheffer E, Coverdale TC, Guyton JA, Caylor KK et al. Termite mounds can increase the robustness of dryland ecosystems to climatic change. Science. 2015 Feb 6;347(6222):651-655. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1261487