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Vegetation, herbivores and fires in savanna ecosystems: A network perspective
- Bodini, Antonio, Clerici, Nicola
- Ecological complexity 2016 v.28 pp. 36-46
- algorithms, browsing, case studies, ecosystems, fires, grasses, grazing, herbivores, loci, models, prediction, rain, savannas
- The dynamics of savanna ecosystems depends on the interplay between multiple factors such as grazing, browsing, fires, rainfall regime and interactions between grass and woody vegetation. In most modelling applications this interplay may not be fully understood because some of these drivers enter the models as dynamically independent factors. In this paper we consider such factors as dynamic variables. To analyze their interplay we focus on the structure of the interactive network of variables and exploit the properties of signed digraphs using the algorithm of Loop Analysis. Qualitative signed digraphs for the savanna ecosystem are developed and their predictions used to interpret patterns of abundance observed in case studies selected from the literature. The outcomes of this exercise unveil that: 1) the structure of the interactions is appropriate locus for the explanation of patterns observed in savannas; 2) signed digraph can help disentangling causative mechanisms by linking correlation patterns, source of change and network structure. This study highlights that central to the understanding of savanna dynamics is our ability to diagram the important relationships and understand how they interrelate with sources of variations to cause ecosystem change.