We have discovered that vegetation patterns follow mathematical laws.
Tipping points in ecosystems
"Dry ecosystems are particularly susceptible to sudden, irreversible desertification caused by climate change and increased use by humans such as grazing. This leads to threshold values being exceeded, something which cannot be anticipated and which is therefore unpredictable.
Preventing and remedying desertification
However, we have discovered that spatial vegetation patterns in these ecosystems follow certain mathematical laws and these laws can provide insight into how close the ecosystem is to a threshold value for sudden desertification. We study the mechanisms leading to these patterns, through which we understand how sudden desertification can be prevented and how areas already affected can be restored ."
Max Rietkerk, Professor of Spatial Ecology and Global Change