Hydrology and Land Surface Studies
Inferring ecosystem parameters from observation of vegetation patterns
Article first published online: 19 OCT 2011
Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 38, Issue 20, October 2011
How to Cite
2011), Inferring ecosystem parameters from observation of vegetation patterns, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L20401, doi:10.1029/2011GL049182., and (
- Issue published online: 19 OCT 2011
- Article first published online: 19 OCT 2011
- Manuscript Accepted: 20 SEP 2011
- Manuscript Revised: 19 SEP 2011
- Manuscript Received: 4 AUG 2011
- unscented Kalman filter;
 Spatial organization of vegetation into periodic, coherent patterns arises from the interaction of positive and negative ecological feedbacks. Naturally, the patterns reflect the characteristics of the ecological processes that underlie their formation. Direct inference of the parameters describing these ecological processes from observations of vegetation spatial patterns has not been attempted. If successful, such inference can facilitate the parameterization and predictive use of vegetation pattern models. An inference technique based on nonlinear filtering is proposed here and applied to estimate the parameters of a single-equation phenomenological model of vegetation biomass patterning. Results derived from modeled biomass data indicate that for sufficiently accurate biomass observations (signal-to-noise ratios >4), and spatial resolution of better than 10% of the pattern wavelength, nonlinear filtering techniques recovered model parameters with high fidelity. When applied to real-world imagery, reasonable parameters within the pattern-forming regime were inferred. The study demonstrates, for the first time, the feasibility of inferring quantitative ecological information from spatial observations of vegetation distributions.