, Volume 129, Issue 2, pp 103-111

Banded vegetation: development under uniform rainfall from a simple cellular automaton model

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Banded vegetation communities are known from semi-arid and arid landscapes in many parts of the world, in grasslands, shrublands, and woodlands. The origin of the distinctive patterning has been the subject of speculation, a common view being that banding evolves through the decline of more complete vegetation cover because of climatic deterioration or through grazing disturbance. A simple model based on cellular automata is employed to test the hypothesis that plausible mechanisms of water partitioning in spatially unstructured plant communities can bring about the development of banding. It is shown that without any climatic change or external disturbance, strongly developed banding can emerge from an initially random distribution of plants. Physical processes underlying the water partitioning, some of which remain unresearched, are discussed, and management implications noted.