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Do Fires in Savannas Consume Woody Biomass? A Comment on Approaches to Modeling Savanna Dynamics

Niall P. Hanan, William B. Sea, Gerhard Dangelmayr and Navashni Govender
The American Naturalist
Vol. 171, No. 6 (June 2008), pp. 851-856
DOI: 10.1086/587527
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/587527
Page Count: 6
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Do Fires in Savannas Consume Woody Biomass? A Comment on Approaches to Modeling Savanna Dynamics
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Abstract

Abstract: Savanna ecosystems have long been fertile ground for mathematical modeling of vegetation structure and the role of resources and disturbance in tree‐grass coexistence. In recent years, several authors have presented models that explore how savanna fires suppress the woody community, alter ecosystem dynamics, and promote grass persistence. We argue, however, that the assumption that fires influence savanna dynamics by consuming woody biomass may be wrong because, in reality, fires kill seedlings and saplings that constitute little biomass relative to adult trees. We present a simple alternative that separates the woody community into a subadult (fire‐sensitive) class and an adult (fire‐resistant) class and explore how this ecologically more realistic, but still simplified, model may provide better simulations of demographic processes and response to fires in savannas.

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