Plant clonal morphologies and spatial patterns as self-organized responses to resource-limited environments

P. Couteron*, F. Anthelme, M. Clerc, D. Escaff, C. Fernandez-Oto, M. Tlidi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


We propose here to interpret and model peculiar plant morphologies (cushions and tussocks) observed in the Andean Altiplano as localized structures. Such structures resulting in a patchy, aperiodic aspect of the vegetation cover are hypothesized to self-organize thanks to the interplay between facilitation and competition processes occurring at the scale of basic plant components biologically referred to as 'ramets'. (Ramets are often of clonal origin.) To verify this interpretation, we applied a simple, fairly generic model (one integro-differential equation) emphasizing via Gaussian kernels nonlocal facilitative and competitive feedbacks of the vegetation biomass density on its own dynamics. We show that under realistic assumptions and parameter values relating to ramet scale, the model can reproduce some macroscopic features of the observed systems of patches and predict values for the inter-patch distance that match the distances encountered in the reference area (Sajama National Park in Bolivia). Prediction of the model can be confronted in the future with data on vegetation patterns along environmental gradients so as to anticipate the possible effect of global change on those vegetation systems experiencing constraining environmental conditions.

Translated title of the contributionPlantar morfologías clonales y patrones espaciales como respuestas autoorganizadas a entornos con recursos limitados.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0102
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2027
StatePublished - 28 Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society.


  • Andes
  • Intraspecific interactions
  • Localized structures
  • Morphogenesis
  • Plant architecture
  • Symmetry-breaking instability


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