Community Ecology

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 159–167 | Cite as

Probabilistic cellular automaton: model and application to vegetation dynamics

  • A. T. S. Lanzer
  • V. D. PillarEmail author


We offer a new framework for cellular automata modeling to describe and predict vegetation dynamics. The model can simulate community composition and spatial patterns by following a set of probabilistic rules generated from empirical data on plant neighborhood dynamics. Based on published data (Lippe et al. 1985), we apply the model to simulate Atlantic Heathland vegetation dynamics and compare the outcome with previous models described for the same site. Our results indicate reasonable agreement between simulated and real data and with previous models based on Markov chains or on mechanistic spatial simulation, and that spatial models may detect similar species dynamics given by non-spatial models. We found evidence that a directional vegetation dynamics may not correspond to a monotonic increase in community spatial organization. The model framework may as well be applied to other systems.


Atlantic Heathland Chi-square statistics Markov chain Plant community Simulation Spatial pattern 



Cellular automaton or cellular automata


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The research was supported by Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa Científica e Tecnológica (CNPq, Brazil) in the form of a grant and fellowship to V.P. and a doctoral scholarship to A.T.S.L. The paper benefited from comments and suggestions received during its presentation at the 45th IAVS Symposium held in Porto Alegre, Brazil.


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2002

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Production EngineeringUniversidade Federal de Santa CatarinaFlorianópolisBrazil
  2. 2.Department of EcologyUniversidade Federal do Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil

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