Effects of precipitation intermittency on vegetation patterns in semi-arid landscapes

L. Eigentler (Lead / Corresponding author), J. A. Sherratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Patterns of vegetation are a characteristic feature of many semi-arid regions. The limiting resource in these ecosystems is water, which is added to the system through short and intense rainfall events that cause a pulse of biological processes such as plant growth and seed dispersal. We propose an impulsive model based on the Klausmeier reaction–advection–diffusion system, analytically investigate the effects of rainfall intermittency on the onset of patterns, and augment our results by numerical simulations of model extensions. Our investigation focuses on the parameter region in which a transition between uniform and patterned vegetation occurs. Results show that decay-type processes associated with a low frequency of precipitation pulses inhibit the onset of patterns and that under intermittent rainfall regimes, a spatially uniform solution is sustained at lower total precipitation volumes than under continuous rainfall, if plant species are unable to efficiently use low soil moisture levels. Unlike in the classical setting of a reaction–diffusion model, patterns are not caused by a diffusion-driven instability but by a combination of sufficiently long periods of droughts between precipitation pulses and water diffusion. Our results further indicate that the introduction of pulse-type seed dispersal weakens the effects of changes to width and shape of the plant dispersal kernel on the onset of patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number132396
Number of pages17
JournalPhysica D: Nonlinear Phenomena
Early online date13 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Impulsive model
  • Nonlocal dispersal
  • Pattern formation
  • Precipitation intermittency
  • Semi-arid landscapes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Applied Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of precipitation intermittency on vegetation patterns in semi-arid landscapes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this