Many of the hypotheses proposed to explain ecotones are based on an individualistic paradigm and are essentially static. While they include local feedbacks, they ignore the interactions between pattern and process across scales. These feedbacks in ecotones are nonlinear in nature and complicate the relations of pattern and process in vegetation, which, combined with observed fractal patterns, suggests a complexity science approach to investigate ecotone dynamics. A cellular automaton of alpine treeline, including nonlinear, local, positive, and negative feedbacks in tree establishment and mortality, as reported in field studies, is used as a model system. Fourier analysis of simulated alpine treelines shows fractal patterns across the treeline landscapes, which are created by patch development. The temporal evolution of the spatial pattern is also fractal. Landscape scale linear correlations between spatial pattern and the rate of advance of trees into tundra arise from localized nonlinear interactions. A tree-patch-landscape scale explanation of pattern-process interaction is proposed in which the endogenous feedbacks determine the spatial and temporal fractal properties of the ecotone. The simulated treeline advance exhibits self-organized complexity and may indicate a potential strategy for monitoring change.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/george_malanson/40/