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Behavioral self-organization underlies the resilience of a coastal ecosystem
de Paoli, H.C.; van der Heide, T.; van den Berg, A.; Silliman, B.R.; Herman, P.M.J.; van de Koppel, J. (2017). Behavioral self-organization underlies the resilience of a coastal ecosystem. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 114(30): 8035-8040.

Additional data:
In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The Academy: Washington, D.C.. ISSN 0027-8424; e-ISSN 1091-6490, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Mytilus edulis Linnaeus, 1758 [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    self-organization; resilience; multiscale patterns; ecosystems; mussels

Authors  Top 
  • de Paoli, H.C., more
  • van der Heide, T.
  • van den Berg, A., more
  • Silliman, B.R.
  • Herman, P.M.J., more
  • van de Koppel, J., more

    Self-organized spatial patterns occur in many terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems. Theoretical models and observational studies suggest self-organization, the formation of patterns due to ecological interactions, is critical for enhanced ecosystem resilience. However, experimental tests of this cross-ecosystem theory are lacking. In this study, we experimentally test the hypothesis that self-organized pattern formation improves the persistence of mussel beds (Mytilus edulis) on intertidal flats. In natural beds, mussels generate self-organized patterns at two different spatial scales: regularly spaced clusters of mussels at centimeter scale driven by behavioral aggregation and large-scale, regularly spaced bands at meter scale driven by ecological feedback mechanisms. To test for the relative importance of these two spatial scales of self-organization on mussel bed persistence, we conducted field manipulations in which we factorially constructed small-scale and/or large-scale patterns. Our results revealed that both forms of self-organization enhanced the persistence of the constructed mussel beds in comparison to nonorganized beds. Small-scale, behaviorally driven cluster patterns were found to be crucial for persistence, and thus resistance to wave disturbance, whereas large-scale, self-organized patterns facilitated reformation of small-scale patterns if mussels were dislodged. This study provides experimental evidence that self-organization can be paramount to enhancing ecosystem persistence. We conclude that ecosystems with self-organized spatial patterns are likely to benefit greatly from conservation and restoration actions that use the emergent effects of self-organization to increase ecosystem resistance to disturbance.

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