Cluster size distributions: Signatures of self-organization in spatial ecologies

Mercedes Pascual, Manojit Roy, Frédéric Guichard, Glenn Flierl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three different lattice-based models for antagonistic ecological interactions, both nonlinear and stochastic, exhibit similar power-law scalings in the geometry of clusters. Specifically, cluster size distributions and perimeter-area curves follow power-law scalings. In the coexistence regime, these patterns are robust: their exponents, and therefore the associated Korcak exponent characterizing patchiness, depend only weakly on the parameters of the systems. These distributions, in particular the values of their exponents, are close to those reported in the literature for systems associated with self-organized criticality (SOC) such as forest-fire models; however, the typical assumptions of SOC need not apply. Our results demonstrate that power-law scalings in cluster size distributions are not restricted to systems for antagonistic interactions in which a clear separation of time-scales holds. The patterns are characteristic of processes of growth and inhibition in space, such as those in predator-prey and disturbance-recovery dynamics. Inversions of these patterns, that is, scalings with a positive slope as described for plankton distributions, would therefore require spatial forcing by environmental variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-666
Number of pages10
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1421
StatePublished - May 29 2002


  • Lattice-based models
  • Local antagonistic interactions
  • Power-law scalings
  • Self-organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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