Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : Vegetation patterns in arid and semi-arid ecosystems as a self-organized response to resource scarcity is a well-documented issue. Their formation is often attributed to the symmetry-breaking type of instability. In this contribution, we focus on a regime far from any symmetry-breaking instability and consider a bistable regime involving uniformly vegetated covers and a bare state. We show that vegetation populations exhibit non-random two-phase structures where high biomass density regions are separated by sparsely covered areas or even bare soil. These structures are referred to as phase separation vegetation covers. We provide observations of this phenomenon in Gabon, Angola, Argentina, and Mexico. The inhomogeneities in environmental conditions are crucial to explain the origin of phase separation vegetation covers. We derive a simple equation from ecologically relevant models to explain various field observations. The bifurcation diagrams obtained from this model allow us to prove that inhomogeneity in the aridity parameter is a source of resilience for vegetation covers, avoiding collapsing towards a bare state. We characterize the natural observations and the equilibria from the model by using Fourier transform technique, spatial autocorrelation analysis, and size distribution of patches analysis.