One size doesn’t fit all

Date posted: January 31, 2014

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.Courtesy William HoffmanA single global model can’t predict savanna tree density as well as continent-specific models. Pictured: South African savanna

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.

“We found that the rules determining tree density are fundamentally different among the three continents studied – Africa, Australia and South America. That means a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach won’t work.

Read more in N.C. State University’s Newsroom.

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