Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1007/BF00044649
Document Shareable Link
Title (Primary) Vegetation change in semiarid communities. Simulating probabilities and time scales
Author Wiegand, T.; Milton, S.J.
Source Titel Vegetatio
Year 1996
Department OESA
Volume 125
Issue 2
Page From 169
Page To 183
Language englisch
Keywords Event-driven dynamics; Grid based model; Grazing, Individual-based simulation model; Karoo

In arid regions, the effects of grazing or sparing management on natural communities of long-lived plants generally take decades to become evident. Event-driven dynamic behavior, unpredictable and low rainfall and complicated interactions between species make it difficult to assess probabilities and time scales of vegetation change.

To gain a better understanding of the main processes and mechanisms involved in vegetation change, we have developed a spatially explicit individual based model that simulates changes in plant communities over long time spans. The model, based on life-history attributes of the five dominant component plant species of a typical Karoo shrub community, follows the fate of each individual plant within the community, the sum of which is community dynamics. The model explores the differential effects of a realistic range of rainfall pattern on the abilities of these species to compete, survive, grow and reproduce.

The specific aim of the model is to identify key processes of vegetation change and to calculate probabilities and timespans for transitions between different vegetation states. Such knowledge is needed for species conservation and sustained animal production.

We show that the time-scale for changes of the dynamic state of the system are long compared with human lifespans. Employing the full range of possible rainfall scenarios showed that short-term community dynamics (years to decades) and species composition depend strongly on the short-term (years) sequence of rainfall events. In all simulation experiments the final vegetation state varied by more than 37% after a 60 year simulation period. Simulating resting of an overgrazed part of the shrub community indicated that little improvement in rangland condition was likely during a period of 60 years. Even such active management, as (simulated) clearing of unpalatable shrubs, resulted in only a 66% probability that degraded shrubland would be in good condition after 60 years resting. Simulated overgrazing of a rangeland in good initial condition only became obvious 40 or 50 years after the initiation of heavy grazing, and after 70 years the mean vegetation state eventually reached that of an overgrazed rangeland.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Wiegand, T., Milton, S.J. (1996):
Vegetation change in semiarid communities. Simulating probabilities and time scales
Vegetatio 125 (2), 169 - 183