Pattern formation at multiple spatial scales drives the resilience of mussel bed ecosystems

Quan-Xing Liu, Peter M. J. Herman, Wolf M. Mooij, Jef Huisman, Marten Scheffer, Han Olff, Johan van de Koppel

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

129 Citations (Scopus)
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Self-organized complexity at multiple spatial scales is a distinctive characteristic of biological systems. Yet, little is known about how different self-organizing processes operating at different spatial scales interact to determine ecosystem functioning. Here we show that the interplay between self-organizing processes at individual and ecosystem level is a key determinant of the functioning and resilience of mussel beds. In mussel beds, self-organization generates spatial patterns at two characteristic spatial scales: small-scale net-shaped patterns due to behavioural aggregation of individuals, and large-scale banded patterns due to the interplay of between-mussel facilitation and resource depletion. Model analysis reveals that the interaction between these behavioural and ecosystem-level mechanisms increases mussel bed resilience, enables persistence under deteriorating conditions and makes them less prone to catastrophic collapse. Our analysis highlights that interactions between different forms of self-organization at multiple spatial scales may enhance the intrinsic ability of ecosystems to withstand both natural and human-induced disturbances.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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