Approaching the concepts of ecosystems resilience and stability through spatiotemporal system dynamics and agent-based modelling
Keywords:ecosystem resilience, ecosystem stability, ecohydrology, agent-based models, system dynamics
We introduce a simplified ecohydrological model to quantitatively assess the resiliency and stability of ecosystems over long periods. The model couples a hydrological soil moisture balance with a set of spatiotemporal systems dynamics and agent-based algorithms to represent the interactions among several plant populations in a gridded area under different water, soil and temperature constraints. We characterize the plant populations by allometric rules (i.e., power laws for generational and reproductive times; linear approximations for water and temperature gains, losses and optimal values; and a set of intra and interspecific interaction rules based on high, optimal and low competition responses among the populations), that represent different plant phenotypes. We define the disturbances by a clearance of populations in an area within the model’s domain and calculate the resiliency and stability with simple indices to determine the ability of the ecosystem to recover from a disturbance. The indices evaluated on each population and over the structure of the entire ecosystem show how the populations respond differently to disturbances, following patterns similar to those expected in nature. The model can represent the spatial and temporal succession of the ecosystem after being disturbed, suggesting how the differences in the phenotypical characteristics of plant populations can be advantageous or disadvantageous for the ecosystem recovery.
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