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Resource availability and heterogeneity shape the self‐organisation of regular spatial patterning


Castillo Vardaro, Jessica et al. (2021), Resource availability and heterogeneity shape the self‐organisation of regular spatial patterning, Dryad, Dataset,


Explaining large-scale ordered patterns and their effects on ecosystem functioning is a fundamental and controversial challenge in ecology. Here, we coupled empirical and theoretical approaches to explore how competition and spatial heterogeneity govern the regularity of colony dispersion in fungus-farming termites. Individuals from different colonies fought fiercely, and inter-nest distances were greater when nests were large and resources scarce—as expected if competition is strong, large colonies require more resources, and foraging area scales with resource availability. Building these principles into a model of inter-colony competition showed that highly ordered patterns emerged under high resource availability and low resource heterogeneity. Analysis of this dynamical model provided novel insights into the mechanisms that modulate pattern regularity and the emergent effects of these patterns on system-wide productivity. Our results show how environmental context shapes pattern formation by social-insect ecosystem engineers, which offers one explanation for the marked variability observed across ecosystems.


Data includes individual termite genotypes generated with ddRADseq, as well as data for each of the termite mounds the termites were collected from. Raw sequence reads were processed with the STACKS software pipeline.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1355122

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1353781

National Science Foundation, Award: DMS-2052616

Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Award: #7800

Division of Mathematical Sciences, Award: 2052616