Impacts of grazing on vegetation dynamics in a sediment transport complex model

Gauvin-Bourdon, Phillipe; King, James; Perez, Liliana

Arid environments are characterized by the complex interaction between vegetation cover, surface soil properties, and the climate. The dynamic balance between these components makes arid environments highly susceptible to swift changes in vegetation cover and surface morphology in response to climate change. Furthermore, arid environments often support grazing activities, which influence other ecogeomorphic processes and alter the stability of vegetation cover in these environments. Despite growing knowledge and the parallel modeling advances to simulate the sediment transport, vegetation distribution, and grazing, in arid environments, relatively little progress has been accomplished on the interaction between all these components. Here we present an adaptation of an already established sediment transport–vegetation cellular automata model (Vegetation and Sediment TrAnsport or ViSTA) that represents landscape dynamics with an agent-based model (GrAM) representing the activity of grazers on the landscape. In this study, our resulting model, ViSTA_GrAM, is subjected to a series of 100-year-long tests that aim to highlight the capacity of the model to represent ecogeomorphic processes linked to vegetation composition, rainfall, wind speed, and grazing pressure. While these simulations do not allow us to evaluate the performance of the new model to reproduce realistic semi-arid environments, they present the capacity of the model to reproduce and explain major feedback complexities between grazers and the vegetation, in addition to providing insight on the vegetation and wind shear sensitivity of the original model. The simulations reinforce our current knowledge of the resilience of grass-based landscapes to foraging activities and highlight the need to identify growth response rates at the species level to fully understand the complexity of the interactions between individual components within arid environments. Overall, the ViSTA_GrAM model presents the foundation for a better assessment of semi-arid environment response to landscape management measures and a better understanding of the complex interactions shaping semi-arid landscapes.

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Gauvin-Bourdon, Phillipe / King, James / Perez, Liliana: Impacts of grazing on vegetation dynamics in a sediment transport complex model. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Phillipe Gauvin-Bourdon et al.

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