Main image for Resilience of Semi-Arid Socio-Ecological Systems

Example model output. The model is a probabilistic cellular automaton model, with rules based on local plant-to-plant interaction. Environmental stress is increased from left to right, result in loss of (green) vegetation cover. The organized patterns emerge spontaneously from the model, as a consequence of the local rules. See Bailey (2011) for further details and discussion.

Some of the most threatened socio-ecological systems are those in the semi-arid regions of the world.

Approximately 30% of the global human population rely on interactions with dryland systems for their continued survival. Future climate change and  growing population pressure will increase stress on these systems considerably.

Modelling by researchers at the Biodiversity Institute indicate distinctive spatial patterning of semi-arid vegetation are driven by changes in environmental stress levels and that more degraded cover is associated with slower (postperturbation) recovery rates indicating a loss in resilience. Such patterning therefore provides much potential for spatial mapping of resilience at the landscape scale.

Researchers at the Biodiversity Institute are using modern and historical aerial photography, meteorological data, land-use statistics, and ground-based vegetation surveys to develop models and tools to remotely assess the resilience of these vital semi-arid landscapes.

Example model output. Environmental stress is increased linearly through time, resulting in loss of (green) vegetation cover. Following complete die-off, stress levels are reversed, allowing grow-back of vegetation. Note evolution of patterning, and differences in the die-off and re-growth phases. See Bailey (2011) for further details and discussion.


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Some papers of interest

Bailey, R.M. (2011) Spatial and temporal signatures of fragility and threshold proximity in modelled semi-arid vegetationProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 278 (1708), 1064-1071. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1750