Nield, Joanna M. and Baas, Andreas C.W.
The influence of different environmental and climatic conditions on vegetated aeolian dune landscape development and response
[in special issue: DGVM Responses to the Latest IPCC Future Climate Scenarios]
Global and Planetary Change, 64, (1-2), . (doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2008.10.002).
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Aeolian dune field development in coastal and semi-arid environments is a function of complex ecogeomorphic interactions which are sensitive to fluctuations in climatic and environmental conditions. We explore the relationships between ecological and geomorphic processes in the development of these landscape patterns and speculate on their response to variations in vegetation vitality and sediment transport capacity, indicating possible consequences of climate and land use change, using the Discrete ECogeomorphic Aeolian Landscape (DECAL) cellular automaton algorithm. This algorithm models dune field behaviour that reflects long-term trends prevalent in palaeo-records, but also elucidates possible evolutionary progressions, relaxation period sequences and threshold sensitivities. The landscape response is sensitive both to the perturbation itself and the state of the system when the disturbance occurs. Response amplitude decreases in simulated systems with reduced mobility unless an external disturbance mimicking fire or land clearance is applied concurrently with a reduction in growth vigour triggering a threshold type response when sufficient vegetation is removed. The model demonstrates that the relative response characteristics of the multiple vegetation types and their mutual feedback with geomorphic processes impart a significant influence on landscape equilibrium or attractor states. Fast growing vegetation enables the formation of hairpin (long-walled) parabolic dune systems, which eventually become sediment starved and stabilise, whereas inhospitable conditions inhibiting vegetation growth contribute to the development of active transgressive transverse dune fields. This simple vegetated dune model illustrates the power and versatility of a cellular automaton approach for exploring thresholds, sensitivities and possible evolutionary trajectories associated with the interactions between ecology, geomorphology and climatic conditions in complex earth surface systems.
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