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dc.contributor.authorMurphy, BP
dc.contributor.authorBowman, DMJS
dc.identifier.citationMurphy, B. P. & Bowman, D. M. J. S. (2012). What controls the distribution of tropical forest and savanna?. ECOLOGY LETTERS, 15 (7), pp.748-758.
dc.descriptionC1 - Journal Articles Refereed
dc.description.abstractForest and savanna biomes dominate the tropics, yet factors controlling their distribution remain poorly understood. Climate is clearly important, but extensive savannas in some high rainfall areas suggest a decoupling of climate and vegetation. In some situations edaphic factors are important, with forest often associated with high nutrient availability. Fire also plays a key role in limiting forest, with fire exclusion often causing a switch from savanna to forest. These observations can be captured by a broad conceptual model with two components: (1) forest and savanna are alternative stable states, maintained by tree cover-fire feedbacks, (2) the interaction between tree growth rates and fire frequency limits forest development; any factor that increases growth (e.g. elevated availability of water, nutrients, CO(2)), or decreases fire frequency, will favour canopy closure. This model is consistent with the range of environmental variables correlated with forest distribution, and with the current trend of forest expansion, likely driven by increasing CO(2) concentrations. Resolving the drivers of forest and savanna distribution has moved beyond simple correlative studies that are unlikely to establish ultimate causation. Experiments using Dynamic Global Vegetation Models, parameterised with measurements from each continent, provide an important tool for understanding the controls of these systems.
dc.subjectTerrestrial Ecology; Global Effects of Climate Change and Variability (excl. Australia
dc.subjectNew Zealand
dc.subjectAntarctica and the South Pacific) (excl. Social Impacts); Forest and Woodlands Land Management
dc.titleWhat controls the distribution of tropical forest and savanna?
dc.typeJournal Article
melbourne.peerreviewPeer Reviewed
melbourne.affiliationThe University of Melbourne
melbourne.affiliation.departmentUniversity General
melbourne.affiliation.facultyUniversity Services
melbourne.source.titleEcology Letters
melbourne.contributor.authorMurphy, Brett
melbourne.accessrightsThis item is currently not available from this repository

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