Aim: Although much tropical ecology generally focuses on trees, grasses are fundamental for characterizing the extensive tropical grassy biomes (TGBs) and, together with the tree functional types, for determining the contrasting functional patterns of TGBs and tropical forests (TFs). To study the factors that determine African biome distribution and the transitions between them, we performed the first continental analysis to include grass and tree functional types. Location: Sub-Saharan Africa. Time period: 2000-2010. Major taxa studied: Savanna and forest trees and C-4 grasses. Methods: We combined remote-sensing data with a land cover map, using tree functional types to identify TGBs and TFs. We analysed the relationships of grass and tree cover with fire interval, rainfall annual average and seasonality. Results: In TGBs experiencing <630 mm annual rainfall, grass growth was water limited. Grass cover and fire recurrence were strongly and directly related over the entire subcontinent. Some TGBs and TFs with annual rainfall >1,200 mm had the same rainfall seasonality but displayed strongly different fire regimes. Main conclusions: Water limitation to grass growth was fundamental in the driest TGBs, acting alongside the well-known limitation to tree growth. Marked differences in fire regimes across all biomes indicated that fire was especially relevant for maintaining mesic and humid TGBs. At high rainfall, our results support the hypothesis of TGBs and TFs being alternative stable states maintained by a vegetation-fire feedback for similar climatic conditions.
Not only trees: Grasses determine African tropical biome distributions via water limitation and fire / D'Onofrio, Donatella; von Hardenberg, Jost; Baudena, Mara. - In: GLOBAL ECOLOGY AND BIOGEOGRAPHY. - ISSN 1466-822X. - 27:6(2018), pp. 714-725. [10.1111/geb.12735]
|Titolo:||Not only trees: Grasses determine African tropical biome distributions via water limitation and fire|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2018|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI):||http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/geb.12735|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|