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Tree-grass competition for soil water in arid and semiarid savannas: The role of rainfall intermittency

Abstract : Arid and semiarid savannas are characterized by the coexistence of trees and grasses in water limited conditions. As in all dry lands, also in these savannas rainfall is highly intermittent. In this work, we develop and use a simple implicit-space model to conceptually explore how precipitation intermittency influences tree-grass competition and savanna occurrence. The model explicitly includes soil moisture dynamics, and life-stage structure of the trees. Assuming that water availability affects the ability of both plant functional types to colonize new space and that grasses outcompete tree seedlings, the model is able to predict the expected sequence of grassland, savanna, and forest along a range of mean annual rainfall. In addition, rainfall intermittency allows for tree-grass coexistence at lower mean annual rainfall values than for constant precipitation. Comparison with observations indicates that the model, albeit very simple, is able to capture some of the essential dynamical processes of natural savannas. The results suggest that precipitation intermittency affects savanna occurrence and structure, indicating a new point of view for reanalyzing observational data from the literature.
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https://hal-polytechnique.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01180324
Contributor : Denis Roura <>
Submitted on : Saturday, July 25, 2015 - 1:46:43 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 22, 2020 - 3:52:16 AM

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Donatella d'Onofrio, Mara Baudena, Fabio d'Andrea, Max Rietkerk, Antonello Provenzale. Tree-grass competition for soil water in arid and semiarid savannas: The role of rainfall intermittency. Water Resources Research, American Geophysical Union, 2015, 51 (1), pp.169-181. ⟨10.1002/2014WR015515⟩. ⟨hal-01180324⟩

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