Why do plants in resource-deprived environments form rings?

E. Sheffer*, H. Yizhaq, E. Gilad, M. Shachak, E. Meron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


We report on a combined theoretical-experimental study of ring formation by plant species in water-limited systems. We explored, under controlled laboratory conditions, the relationships between water regime and ring formation using a small perennial grass, Poa bulbosa L., as a model species. Our experimental studies show that ring-shaped patches are formed as a result of differential biomass growth across the patches, in spite of uniform water supply. The theoretical studies were based on a mathematical model for vegetation pattern formation that captures feedback processes between biomass growth and water exploitation. Our model studies reproduce the experimental findings and predict that spots destabilize to form rings in species whose lateral root augmentation per unit biomass growth is sufficiently small. This finding explains why rings in nature are formed by dense clonal plants.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)192-200
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Complexity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Yael Seligmann, Sonja Rosin, Sol Brand, Adi Balin-Shunami, Noga Zohar, Niv De-Malach, and Hadil Majeed for assistance in the experimental work and Assaf Kletter for helpful discussions. This work was supported in part by the Israel Science Foundation and the James S. McDonnell Foundation.


  • Poa bulbosa Central die-back L.
  • Ring
  • Vegetation pattern formation
  • Water-limited systems


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