A tribute to the use of minimalistic spatially-implicit models of savanna vegetation dynamics to address broad spatial scales in spite of scarce data

Valaire Djeumen Yatat, Alexis Tchuinté, Yves Dumont, Pierre Couteron


The savanna biome encompasses a variety of vegetation physiognomies that traduce complex dynamical responses of plants to the rainfall gradients leading from tropical forests to hot deserts. Such responses are shaped by interactions between woody and grassy plants that can be either direct, disturbance-mediated or both. There has been increasing evidence that several vegetation physiognomies, sometimes highly contrasted, may durably coexist under similar rainfall conditions suggesting multi-stability or at least not abrupt transitions. These fascinating questions have triggered burgeoning modelling efforts which have, however, not yet delivered an integrated picture liable to furnish sensible predictions of potential vegetation at broad scales. In this paper, we will recall the key ecological processes and resulting vegetation dynamics that models should take into account. We will also present the main modelling options present in the literature and advocate the use of minimalistic models, capturing only the essential processes while retaining sufficient mathematical tractability and restricting themselves to a minimal set of parameters assessable from the overall literature.


Biogeography; Rainfall; Fires; Ordinary differential equations; Impulsive differential equation; Tree-Grass interactions; Multi-stability

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11145/j.biomath.2018.12.167

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