A Lévy expansion strategy optimizes early dune building by beach grasses

Reijers, V. C., Siteur, K., Hoeks, S., van Belzen, J., Borst, A. C. W., Heusinkveld, J. H. T., Govers, L. L., Bouma, T. J., Lamers, L. P. M., van de Koppel, J. & van der Heide, T., 14-Jun-2019, In : Nature Communications. 10, 1, 9 p., 2656.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Lifeforms ranging from bacteria to humans employ specialized random movement patterns. Although effective as optimization strategies in many scientific fields, random walk application in biology has remained focused on search optimization by mobile organisms. Here, we report on the discovery that heavy-tailed random walks underlie the ability of clonally expanding plants to self-organize and dictate the formation of biogeomorphic landscapes. Using cross-Atlantic surveys, we show that congeneric beach grasses adopt distinct heavy-tailed clonal expansion strategies. Next, we demonstrate with a spatially explicit model and a field experiment that the Lévy-type strategy of the species building the highest dunes worldwide generates a clonal network with a patchy shoot organization that optimizes sand trapping efficiency. Our findings demonstrate Lévy-like movement in plants, and emphasize the role of species-specific expansion strategies in landscape formation. This mechanistic understanding paves the way for tailor-made planting designs to successfully construct and restore biogeomorphic landscapes and their services.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2656
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14-Jun-2019
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