Effects of anisotropy on pattern formation in wetland ecosystems



[1] Wetland ecosystems are often characterized by distinct vegetation patterns. Various mechanisms have been proposed to explain the formation of these patterns; including spatially variable peat accumulation and water ponding. Recently, short-range facilitation and long-range competition for resources (a.k.a scale dependent feedback) has been proposed as a possible mechanism for pattern formation in wetland ecosystems. We modify an existing, spatially explicit, advection-reaction-diffusion model to include for a regional hydraulic gradient and effective anisotropy in hydraulic conductivity. This effective anisotropic hydraulic conductivity implicitly represents the effect of ponding: a reduction in the long-range inhibition of vegetation growth in the direction perpendicular to the prevailing hydraulic gradient. We demonstrate that by accounting for effective anisotropy in a simple modeling framework that encompasses only a scale dependent feedback between biomass and nutrient flow, we can reproduce the various vegetation patterns observed in wetland ecosystems: maze, and vegetation bands both perpendicular and parallel to prevailing flow directions. We examine the behavior of this model over a range of plant transpiration rates and regional hydraulic gradients. Results show that by accounting for the effective x-y anisotropy that results from biomass-water interaction (i.e., ponding) we can better understand the mechanisms that drive ecosystem patterning.