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Systemic analysis of a developing plant community on the island of Surtsey

Hannah Schrenk, Strategy and Digitalization, System Sciences, Helmholtz Zentrum, München, Germany
Borgþór Magnússon, Icelandic Institute of Natural History, Garðabær
Bjarni D. Sigurdsson, Agricultural University of Iceland, Borgarnes
Wolfgang zu Castell, Department of Geoinformation, Helmholtz-Zentrum (GFZ), Potsdam, Germany


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Based on our recently developed method to quantify Gunderson and Holling's adaptive cycle, we provide a holistic analysis of a vascular plant community on the volcanic island of Surtsey between 2000 and 2018. We identify one complete adaptive cycle during the study period, which reflects the system's transition from a classic pioneer to a grassland community. Our results support the hypothesis that nutrients brought to the island by breeding gulls are the main driver of this development. The study period includes the beginning of a second cycle, which deviates from the pattern described in the metaphor. Indeed, the cycle's exploitation phase is interrupted by a simultaneous decline of all three systemic variables. We can trace this phenomenon back to a severe drought in 2012. Furthermore, the method allows us to establish the systemic role of individual species during the maturation process.

Key words

adaptive cycle metaphor; information transfer; nesting density; succession; vascular plants community

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087