A multiscale, hierarchical model of pulse dynamics in arid-land ecosystems

S. L. Collins, J. Belnap, Nancy Grimm, J. A. Rudgers, C. N. Dahm, P. D'Odorico, M. Litvak, D. O. Natvig, D. C. Peters, W. T. Pockman, R. L. Sinsabaugh, B. O. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Ecological processes in arid lands are often described by the pulse-reserve paradigm, in which rain events drive biological activity until moisture is depleted, leaving a reserve. This paradigm is frequently applied to processes stimulated by one or a few precipitation events within a growing season. Here we expand the original framework in time and space and include other pulses that interact with rainfall. This new hierarchical pulse-dynamics framework integrates space and time through pulse-driven exchanges, interactions, transitions, and transfers that occur across individual to multiple pulses extending from micro to watershed scales. Climate change will likely alter the size, frequency, and intensity of precipitation pulses in the future, and arid-land ecosystems are known to be highly sensitive to climate variability. Thus, a more comprehensive understanding of arid-land pulse dynamics is needed to determine how these ecosystems will respond to, and be shaped by, increased climate variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-419
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - Nov 23 2014


  • microbial processes
  • pulse-reserve paradigm
  • species interactions
  • state transitions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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