Asymmetric response of forest and grassy biomes to climate variability across the African Humid Period: influenced by anthropogenic disturbance?

Phelps, Leanne N. and Chevalier, Manuel and Shanahan, Timothy M. and Aleman, Julie C. and Courtney-Mustaphi, Colin and Kiahtipes, Christopher A. and Broennimann, Oliver and Marchant, Rob and Shekeine, John and Quick, Lynne J. and Davis, Basil A. S. and Guisan, Antoine and Manning, Katie. (2020) Asymmetric response of forest and grassy biomes to climate variability across the African Humid Period: influenced by anthropogenic disturbance? Ecography, 43 (8). pp. 1118-1142.

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A comprehensive understanding of the relationship between land cover, climate change and disturbance dynamics is needed to inform scenarios of vegetation change on the African continent. Although significant advances have been made, large uncertainties exist in projections of future biodiversity and ecosystem change for the world's largest tropical landmass. To better illustrate the effects of climate-disturbance-ecosystem interactions on continental‐scale vegetation change, we apply a novel statistical multivariate envelope approach to subfossil pollen data and climate model outputs (TraCE‐21ka). We target paleoenvironmental records across continental Africa, from the African Humid Period (AHP: ca 14 700-5500 yr BP) - an interval of spatially and temporally variable hydroclimatic conditions - until recent times, to improve our understanding of overarching vegetation trends and to compare changes between forest and grassy biomes (savanna and grassland). Our results suggest that although climate variability was the dominant driver of change, forest and grassy biomes responded asymmetrically: 1) the climatic envelope of grassy biomes expanded, or persisted in increasingly diverse climatic conditions, during the second half of the AHP whilst that of forest did not; 2) forest retreat occurred much more slowly during the mid to late Holocene compared to the early AHP forest expansion; and 3) as forest and grassy biomes diverged during the second half of the AHP, their ecological relationship (envelope overlap) fundamentally changed. Based on these asymmetries and associated changes in human land use, we propose and discuss three hypotheses about the influence of anthropogenic disturbance on continental‐scale vegetation change.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Geowissenschaften > Geoökologie (Heiri)
UniBasel Contributors:Courtney-Mustaphi, Colin
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:05 Aug 2020 12:20
Deposited On:05 Aug 2020 12:20

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