Soil nutrient cycles as a nonlinear dynamical system

S. Manzoni, Amilcare Porporato, P. D'Odorico, F. Laio, I. Rodriguez-Iturbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


An analytical model for the soil carbon and nitrogen cycles is studied from the dynamical system point of view. Its main nonlinearities and feedbacks are analyzed by considering the steady state solution under deterministic hydro-climatic conditions. It is shown that, changing hydroclimatic conditions, the system undergoes dynamical bifurcations, shifting from a stable focus to a stable node and back to a stable focus when going from dry, to well-watered, and then to saturated conditions, respectively. An alternative degenerate solution is also found in cases when the system can not sustain decomposition under steady external conditions. Different basins of attraction for "normal" and "degenerate" solutions are investigated as a function of the system initial conditions. Although preliminary and limited to the specific form of the model, the present analysis points out the importance of nonlinear dynamics in the soil nutrient cycles and their possible complex response to hydro-climatic forcing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)589-598
Number of pages10
JournalNonlinear Processes in Geophysics
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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