, Volume 69, Issue 1, pp 27–33

A dynamical systems perspective on vegetation theory

  • David W. Roberts

DOI: 10.1007/BF00038684

Cite this article as:
Roberts, D.W. Vegetatio (1987) 69: 27. doi:10.1007/BF00038684


A dynamical systems perspective is employed to develop a simple conceptual model of vegetation and environment as coupled dynamical systems. The conceptual model characterizes the influence of environment on vegetation, the effect of vegetation on the environment, and the subsequent response of vegetation to the modified environment. Vegetation and environmental dynamics are modeled as trajectories in complementary state spaces, with the trajectories jointly determined by the position of a given site in both spaces. The vegetation and environment state spaces are coupled by the physiological requirements of the component species and the modification of environment by vegetation. From a dynamical systems perspective, current vegetation theory and analyses overemphasize environmental determination of vegetation composition and neglect the effects of vegetation on environment. A dynamical systems perspective is capable of synthesizing previous concepts of vegetation; the continuum and community type concepts are possible consequences of site specific differences in vegetation metabolism and environmental plasticity.

I would like to acknowledge the helpful comments and criticisms of Drs G. Cottam, J. D. Aber, T. F. H. Allen, R. P. McIntosh, C. G. Lorimer, and anonymous reviewers.


Community type Continuum Dynamical ststem Environment/vegetation relation Succession Vegetation theory 

Copyright information

© Dr S. Junk Publishers 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • David W. Roberts
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of ForestryUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forest Resources and Ecology CenterUtah State UniversityLoganUSA