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One size doesn’t fit all

A single global model can’t predict savanna tree density as well as continent-specific models, according to research published in Science this week. Photo of a South African savanna courtesy of Dr. William Hoffmann, a co-author of the study.

A general cross-continent model to predict the effects of climate change on savanna vegetation isn’t as effective as examining individual savannas by continent, according to research published in Science this week. Savannas – grasslands dotted with trees – cover about 20 percent of the earth’s land and play a critical role in storing atmospheric carbon, says Dr. William Hoffmann, associate professor of plant and microbial biology at North Carolina State University and co-author of the study. “We wanted to find out what controls savanna vegetation – essentially the density of trees within the savanna – and whether we can use a single global model to predict what will happen to savannas if global temperatures rise,” Hoffmann said.