Regime shifts in models of dryland vegetation

Yuval R. Zelnik, Shai Kinast, Hezi Yizhaq, Golan Bel, Ehud Meron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drylands are pattern-forming systems showing selforganized vegetation patchiness, multiplicity of stable states and fronts separating domains of alternative stable states. Pattern dynamics, induced by droughts or disturbances, can result in desertification shifts from patterned vegetation to bare soil. Pattern formation theory suggests various scenarios for such dynamics: an abrupt global shift involving a fast collapse to bare soil, a gradual global shift involving the expansion and coalescence of bare-soil domains and an incipient shift to a hybrid state consisting of stationary bare-soil domains in an otherwise periodic pattern. Using models of dryland vegetation, we address the question of which of these scenarios can be realized. We found that the models can be split into two groups: models that exhibit multiplicity of periodic-pattern and bare-soil states, and models that exhibit, in addition, multiplicity of hybrid states. Furthermore, in all models, we could not identify parameter regimes in which bare-soil domains expand into vegetated domains. The significance of these findings is that, while models belonging to the first group can only exhibit abrupt shifts, models belonging to the second group can also exhibit gradual and incipient shifts. A discussion of open problems concludes the paper.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number0358
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2004
StatePublished - 13 Dec 2013


  • Desertification
  • Fronts
  • Homoclinic snaking
  • Localized patterns
  • Models of vegetation pattern formation
  • Multiplicity of stable states

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Mathematics


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