The remarkable congruence of New and Old World savanna origins

The remarkable congruence of New and Old World savanna origins Savanna occupies half the global tropical zone (Lehmann et al ., ) and is home to hundreds of millions of people. Usually comprising a mix of C 4 grasses and scattered trees, it can be as rich in plant species as tropical rain forests (Forzza et al ., ) and accounts for c . 30% of global terrestrial net primary productivity (Lehmann et al ., ). Despite its high biodiversity and importance to humanity, the scientific study of savanna and – perhaps more alarmingly – its conservation have been neglected relative to its better‐known cousin, the tropical rain forest. In this issue of New Phytologist , Maurin . (pp. 201–214) present important new data that shed light on the evolutionary origin of savannas in Africa. For the first time for African savanna systems, they use evidence from time‐calibrated phylogenetic trees to infer biome history, in particular the appearance of plants with adaptations to savanna fires that burn when the high fuel load of C 4 grasses ignites during the long dry season associated with the highly seasonal savanna climate. Understanding the role of fire in the origin and maintenance of savannas is critical at a time when global http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png New Phytologist Wiley

The remarkable congruence of New and Old World savanna origins

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2014 New Phytologist Trust
ISSN
0028-646X
eISSN
1469-8137
D.O.I.
10.1111/nph.12996
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Savanna occupies half the global tropical zone (Lehmann et al ., ) and is home to hundreds of millions of people. Usually comprising a mix of C 4 grasses and scattered trees, it can be as rich in plant species as tropical rain forests (Forzza et al ., ) and accounts for c . 30% of global terrestrial net primary productivity (Lehmann et al ., ). Despite its high biodiversity and importance to humanity, the scientific study of savanna and – perhaps more alarmingly – its conservation have been neglected relative to its better‐known cousin, the tropical rain forest. In this issue of New Phytologist , Maurin . (pp. 201–214) present important new data that shed light on the evolutionary origin of savannas in Africa. For the first time for African savanna systems, they use evidence from time‐calibrated phylogenetic trees to infer biome history, in particular the appearance of plants with adaptations to savanna fires that burn when the high fuel load of C 4 grasses ignites during the long dry season associated with the highly seasonal savanna climate. Understanding the role of fire in the origin and maintenance of savannas is critical at a time when global

Journal

New PhytologistWiley

Published: Oct 1, 2014

References

  • The origin of the savanna biome
    Beerling, Beerling; Osborne, Osborne
  • Phylogenetic biome conservatism on a global scale
    Crisp, Crisp; Arroyo, Arroyo; Cook, Cook; Gandolfo, Gandolfo; Jordan, Jordan; McGlone, McGlone; Weston, Weston; Westoby, Westoby; Wilf, Wilf; Linder, Linder
  • Biome shifts and niche evolution in plants
    Donoghue, Donoghue; Edwards, Edwards

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