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Self-stabilization of the biosphere under global change: a tutorial geophysiological approach

W. von Bloh, A. Block, and H.J. Schellnhuber

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
Telegrafenberg, P.O. Box 601203, D-14412 Potsdam

Tellus 49B, 249-262 (1997)


A two-dimensional extension of the simple Lovelock-Watson model for geosphere-biosphere feedback is introduced and discussed. Our enriched version also takes into account various pertinent physical, biological, and civilisatory processes like lateral heat transport, species competition, mutation, germination, and habitat fragmentation. The model is used as a caricature of the Earth System, which allows potential response mechanisms of the biosphere to environmental stress (as generated, e.g., by global warming or anthropogenic land-cover change) to be investigated qualitatively.

Based on a cellular automaton representation of the system, extensive calculations are performed. They reveal a number of remarkable and, partially, counter-intuitive phenomena: our model biosphere is able to control almost perfectly the geophysical conditions for its own existence. If the environmental stress exceeds certain thresholds, however, life breaks down on the artificial planet via a first-order phase transition, i.e., in a non-reversible way. There is a close connection between self-stabilizing capacity, biodiversity and geometry of habitat fragmentation. It turns out, in particular, that unrestricted Darwinian competition, which reduces the number of co-existing species, is the best guarantee for survival of the artificial ecosphere as a whole.

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Next: Introduction

Werner von Bloh (Data & Computation)
Thu Jul 13 13:46:37 MEST 2000