Contagious Disturbance, Ecological Memory, and the Emergence of Landscape Pattern


Landscapes are strongly shaped by the degree of interaction between pattern and process. This paper examines how ecological memory, the degree to which an ecological process is shaped by its past modifications of a landscape, influences landscape dynamics. I use a simulation model to examine how ecological memory shapes the landscape dynamics produced by the interaction of vegetative regrowth and fire. The model illustrated that increased ecological memory increased the strength and spatial extent of landscape pattern. The extent of these changes depended upon the relative rates of vegetative recovery and fire initiation. When ecological memory is strong, landscape pattern is persistent; pattern tends to be maintained rather than destroyed by fire. The generality of the simulation model suggests that these results may also apply to disturbance processes other than fire. The existence of ecological memory in ecosystems may allow processes to produce ecological pattern that can entrain other ecosystem variables. The methods presented in this paper to analyze pattern in model ecosystems could be used to detect such pattern in actual ecosystems.

DOI: 10.1007/s10021-001-0077-1

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@article{Peterson2002ContagiousDE, title={Contagious Disturbance, Ecological Memory, and the Emergence of Landscape Pattern}, author={Garry D. Peterson}, journal={Ecosystems}, year={2002}, volume={5}, pages={329-338} }