Prize Postdoctoral Fellow Colloquium: Positive Feedbacks and the Global Distribution of Biomes
A mechanistic understanding of biome distributions is a critical issue i! n modern ecology, especially in the context of predictive models of past and future climate change. While we can explain the current distribution of many biomes accurately, our predictions are less successful in dynamic systems where vegetation-environment feedbacks are significant. The challenge is to integrate feedbacks more fundamentally into a coherent theory of ecological process that determines biome distributions currently, and that will shape them into the future.
This is among the most urgent questions to be addressed in ecology today. Savannas and grasslands cover ~40% of the land surface and forests cover another ~30%. Understanding the dynamics among these biomes will help explain biosphere dynamics, past, present and into the future. I will combine empirical and theoretical work for insights into the mechanisms that give rise to the emergent stability of savanna, despite variability in vegetation structure within the biome.