Implications of tristability in pattern-forming ecosystems Academic Article uri icon


  • Many ecosystems show both self-organized spatial patterns and multistability of possible states. The combination of these two phenomena in different forms has a significant impact on the behavior of ecosystems in changing environments. One notable case is connected to tristability of two distinct uniform states together with patterned states, which has recently been found in model studies of dryland ecosystems. Using a simple model, we determine the extent of tristability in parameter space, explore its effects on the system dynamics, and consider its implications for state transitions or regime shifts. We analyze the bifurcation structure of model solutions that describe uniform states, periodic patterns, and hybrid states between the former two. We map out the parameter space where these states exist, and note how the different states interact with each other. We further focus on two special implications with ecological significance, breakdown of the snaking range and complex fronts. We find that the organization of the hybrid states within a homoclinic snaking structure breaks down as it meets a Maxwell point where simple fronts are stationary. We also discover a new series of complex fronts between the uniform states, each with its own velocity. We conclude with a brief discussion of the significance of these findings for the dynamics of regime shifts and their potential control.

publication date

  • March 1, 2018