Investigating landscape phase transitions in Mediterranean rangelands by recurrence analysis
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Socio-ecological landscapes typically characterized by non-linear dynamics in space and time are difficult to be analyzed using standard quantitative methods, due to multiple processes interacting on different spatial and temporal scales. This poses a challenge to the identification of appropriate approaches for analyzing time series that can evaluate system properties of landscape dynamics in the face of disturbances, such as uncontrolled fires.
The purpose is the application of non-linear methods such as recurrence quantification analysis (RQA) to landscape ecology. The examples concern the time series of burnt and unburnt Mediterranean rangelands, to highlight potential and limits of RQA.
We used RQA together with joint recurrence analysis (JRA) to compare the evolutionary behavior of different land uses.
Time series of forests and grasslands in rangelands present both periodic and chaotic components with a rather similar behavior after the fire and clear transitions from less to more regular/predictable dynamics/succession. Results highlight the impacts of fire, the recovery capacity of land covers to pre-burnt levels, and the decay of synchronization towards the previous regime associated with vegetation secondary succession consistent with early successional species.
RQA and JRA with their set of indices (recurrence rate: RR, laminarity: LAM, determinism: DET, and divergence: DIV) can represent new sensitive measures that may monitor the adaptive capacity and the resilience of landscapes. However, future applications are needed to standardize the analysis by strengthening the accuracy of this approach in describing the ongoing transformations of natural and man-managed landscapes.
KeywordsRecurrence quantification analysis (RQA) Non-linear analysis Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) Fire disturbance Predictability Secondary succession
Piero Medagli is gratefully acknowledged for his suggestions and field surveys as well as the three anonymous reviewers for their useful suggestions and comments that have strongly improved the original version of the manuscript. We also acknowledge the ERASMUS funding program and one DFG Grant to N. Marwan (RTG 2043/1, Natural Hazards and Risks in a Changing World).
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