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Citation. Tilman, D.; Wedin, D. 1991. Oscillations and chaos in the dynamics of a perennial grass. Nature 353:653-655. (Highlighted in The New York Times and other media.) [1186 LTER]
Abstract. Ecological models describe the conditions required for chaotic population dynamics, but there are few studies with which to test these predictions, and none for perennial plants. In a five-year experiment, a perennial grass exhibited numerous traits associated with chaotic dynamics. Biomass oscillations were greater on more productive soils, with plots on the richest soils exhibiting a 6,000-fold crash. Curves relating the biomass one year to that in the previous year had the peaks and steep slopes associated with chaos, and the dependence of plant biomass on productivity became fuzzy over time. These dynamics resulted from the time-delayed inhibitory effect of plant litter on subsequent growth. A model incorporating litter inhibition predicts oscillations and chaos as productivity increases.
Keywords. productivity, biomass oscillations, perennial grass