Do fires in savannas consume woody biomass? A comment on approaches to modeling savanna dynamics

N Hanan, William Sea, Gerhard Dangelmayr, Navashni Govender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

62 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)851-856
Number of pages6
JournalThe American Naturalist
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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