The origin of the savanna biome

The origin of the savanna biome Savannas are a major terrestrial biome, comprising of grasses with the C4 photosynthetic pathway and trees with the C3 type. This mixed grass–tree biome rapidly appeared on the ecological stage 8 million years ago with the near‐synchronous expansion of C4 grasses around the world. We propose a new hypothesis for this global event based on a systems analysis that integrates recent advances in how fire influences cloud microphysics, climate and savanna ecology in a low carbon dioxide (CO2) world. We show that fire accelerates forest loss and C4 grassland expansion through multiple positive feedback loops that each promote drought and more fire. A low CO2 atmosphere amplifies this cycle by limiting tree recruitment, allowing the ingress of C4 grasses to greatly increase ecosystem flammability. Continued intensification of land use could enhance or moderate the network of feedbacks that have initiated, promoted and sustained savannas for millions of years. We suggest these alterations will overprint the effects of anthropogenic atmospheric change in coming decades. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Global Change Biology Wiley

The origin of the savanna biome

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2006 Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
ISSN
1354-1013
eISSN
1365-2486
D.O.I.
10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01239.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Savannas are a major terrestrial biome, comprising of grasses with the C4 photosynthetic pathway and trees with the C3 type. This mixed grass–tree biome rapidly appeared on the ecological stage 8 million years ago with the near‐synchronous expansion of C4 grasses around the world. We propose a new hypothesis for this global event based on a systems analysis that integrates recent advances in how fire influences cloud microphysics, climate and savanna ecology in a low carbon dioxide (CO2) world. We show that fire accelerates forest loss and C4 grassland expansion through multiple positive feedback loops that each promote drought and more fire. A low CO2 atmosphere amplifies this cycle by limiting tree recruitment, allowing the ingress of C4 grasses to greatly increase ecosystem flammability. Continued intensification of land use could enhance or moderate the network of feedbacks that have initiated, promoted and sustained savannas for millions of years. We suggest these alterations will overprint the effects of anthropogenic atmospheric change in coming decades.

Journal

Global Change BiologyWiley

Published: Nov 1, 2006

References

  • Emission of trace gases and aerosols from biomass burning
    Andreae, Andreae; Merlet, Merlet
  • A proposed CO 2 ‐controlled mechanisms of woody plant invasion in grasslands and savannas
    Bond, Bond; Midgley, Midgley
  • C 4 photosynthesis, atmospheric CO 2 , and climate
    Ehleringer, Ehleringer; Cerling, Cerling; Helliker, Helliker
  • Violent pyro‐convective storm devastates Australia's capital and pollutes the stratosphere
    Fromm, Fromm; Tupper, Tupper; Rosenfeld, Rosenfeld
  • Positive feedbacks of fire, climate, and vegetation and the conversion of tropical savanna
    Hoffmann, Hoffmann; Schroeder, Schroeder; Jackson, Jackson
  • Fire and the Miocene expansion of C 4 grasslands
    Keeley, Keeley; Rundel, Rundel
  • Carbon isotopic evidence from paleosols for mixed C 3 /C 4 vegetation in the Bogota Basin, Colombia
    Mora, Mora; Pratt, Pratt
  • Estimating historical changes in global land cover
    Ramankutty, Ramankutty; Foley, Foley
  • The evolution of C 4 photosynthesis
    Sage, Sage
  • Microscopic charcoal in sediments
    Scott, Scott
  • Effects of fire and herbivory on the stability of savanna ecosystems
    Van Langevelde, Van Langevelde; Van De Vijver, Van De Vijver; Kumar, Kumar

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