Experimental evidence for spatial self-organization and its emergent effects in mussel beds ecosystems

J. Van de Koppel, J.C. Gascoigne, G. Theraulaz, M. Rietkerk, W.M. Mooij, P.M.J. Herman

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    Abstract

    Spatial self-organization is the main theoretical explanation for the global occurrence of regular or otherwise coherent spatial patterns in ecosystems. Using mussel beds as a model ecosystem, we provide an experimental demonstration of spatial self-organization. Under homogeneous laboratory conditions, mussels developed regular patterns, similar to those in the field. An individual-based model derived from our experiments showed that interactions between individuals explained the observed patterns. Furthermore, a field study showed that pattern formation affected ecosystem-level processes in terms of improved growth and resistance to wave action. Our results imply that spatial self-organization is an important determinant of the structure and functioning of ecosystems, and it needs to be considered in their conservation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)739-742
    JournalScience Magazine
    Volume322
    Issue number5902
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

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