Network based early warning indicators of vegetation changes in a land-atmosphere model

Z. Yin, S.C. Dekker, B.J.J.M. van den Hurk, H.A. Dijkstra

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Numerous model studies demonstrate that ecosystems might not shift smoothly with a gradual change in resource concentration. At specific points, vegetation can suddenly shift from one stable state to another. To predict such undesirable shifts, statistical indicators are proposed for early warning prediction. These so-called classical indicators can address whether vegetation state is moving towards the tipping point of an abrupt transition, however when the transition will occur is hard to predict. Recent studies suggest that complex network based indicators can improve early warning signals of abrupt transitions in complex dynamic systems. In this study, both classical and network based indicators are tested in a coupled land-atmosphere ecological model in which a scale-dependent hydrology-infiltration feedback and a large scale vegetation-precipitation feedback are represented. Multiple biomass equilibria are found in the model and abrupt transitions can occur when rainfall efficiency is decreased. Interaction network based indicators of these transitions are compared with classical indicators, such as the lag-1 autocorrelation and Moran's coefficient, with particular focus on the transition associated with desertification. Two criteria are used to evaluate the quality of these early warning indicators and several high quality network based indicators are identified.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-78
JournalEcological Complexity
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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