Ecological research on organism-environment interactions has developed asymmetrically. Modulation of organisms by the environment has received much attention, while theoretical studies on the environmental impact of organisms have until recently been limited. We propose a theoretical framework for studying the environmental impacts of woody plants in order to understand their effects on biodiversity. We adopt pattern formation theory to discuss how woody plants organize ecological systems on the patch and landscape levels through patch formation, and how organism patchiness creates resource patchiness that affects biodiversity. We suggest an integrative model that links organisms as landscape modulators through resource distribution and species filtering from larger to smaller spatial scales. Our “biodiversity cycling hypothesis” states that in organism-modulated landscapes, disturbance enables the coexistence of different developmental stages of vegetation patches, thereby increasing biodiversity. This hypothesis emphasizes that species and landscape diversity vary with the development, renewal, maturation, and decay of biotically induced patches.
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Vol. 58 • No. 3