Phase-separation physics underlies new theory for the resilience of patchy ecosystems

Koen Siteur, Quan-Xing Liu, Vivi Rottschäfer, Tjisse van der Heide, Max Rietkerk, Arjen Doelman, Christoffer Boström, and Johan van de Koppel

PNAS 120 (2) e2202683120

Human-induced environmental changes push ecosystems worldwide toward their limits. Therefore, there is a growing need for indicators to assess the resilience of ecosystems against external changes and disturbances. We highlight a novel class of spatial patterns in ecosystems for which resilience indicators are lacking and introduce a new indicator framework for these ecosystems, akin to the physics of phase separation. Our work suggests that aerial imagery can be used to monitor patchy ecosystems and highlights a link between physics and ecosystem resilience.

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