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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    Van de Koppel, J., Gascoigne, J. C., Theraulaz, G., Rietkerk, M., Mooij, W. M., & Herman, P. M. J. (2008). Experimental evidence for spatial self-organization and its emergent effects in mussel beds ecosystems. Science Magazine, 322(5902), 739-742. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1163952