Mathematical Geophysics Editors' Highlights

A New Model for Self-Organized Pattern Formation

Scale-dependent feedbacks in time, rather than in space, result in a new type of competition, explaining the regularly patterned landscape of Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida.

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface


Scale-dependent feedbacks in space, which couple short-distance positive feedback with long-distance negative feedback, are considered a prime reason or even a necessary condition for self-organization that results in regular patterns of many kinds.

Building on previous research in geomorphology, Dong et al. [2021] introduce a competition model that captures scale-dependent feedbacks in time, revealing a new form of self-organization that may explain regular patterns found in nature. They illustrate the new concept by focusing on the evenly spaced cypress depressions in the Big Cypress National Preserve, South Florida, USA.

Neighboring cypress depressions compete for catching precipitation, which promotes weathering and therefore leads to expansion of the depression volume. As a depression grows, it retains more precipitation, further increasing the duration of wet periods and the associated weathering. The growth rate of the depressions decreases with size, which causes a movement of the divides between depressions in favor of the smaller depression, until all depressions are similar in size and shape.

The authors devised a mathematical model describing this process of regular pattern formation, which may be applicable to other landscape pattern formation processes both in geomorphology and in ecology.

Citation: Dong, X., Murray, A. B., & Heffernan, J. B. [2021]. Competition among limestone depressions leads to self-organized regular patterning on a flat landscape. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 126, e2021JF006072.

—Ton A. J. F. Hoitink, Editor, JGR: Earth Surface

Text © 2021. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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