Ecotones can be abrupt changes in vegetation on gradual abiotic gradients, such as some treelines, and so have been considered as potential indicators of response to climatic change and regulators of fluxes across landscapes. Factors of positive feedback for growth and establishment and seed rain from source areas have been suggested as playing a role in such patterns and dynamics. The effects of variation in feedback strength and seed rain on the abrupt pattern have not, however, been assessed. A spatially explicit computer simulation is used to represent an ecotone as might occur at a mountain treeline. The steepness of the abiotic gradient determines the general location of the treeline, while the strength of feedback determines how abrupt it is. Increased seed rain and seedling survival modify the dominant patterns by creating patches of krummholz or small seedings. The feedbacks are spatially autocorrelated and so create waves of mortality and regeneration on the simulated slopes comparable to dynamics observed on some mountains. These dynamics may mean that the pattern at the ecotone at any point in time is ephemeral and may respond differently to environmental change.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/george_malanson/77/