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Open Ecosystemsecology and evolution beyond the forest edge$
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William J. Bond

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198812456

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198812456.001.0001

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Uncertain ecosystems: the conceptual framework

Uncertain ecosystems: the conceptual framework

(p.27) Chapter 3 Uncertain ecosystems: the conceptual framework
Open Ecosystems

William J. Bond

Oxford University Press

Climate sets the potential biomass of trees and physiologists have made considerable progress in understanding and predicting that potential and applying it in global vegetation models. The problem is in understanding and predicting tree cover where it is far from the climate potential. Vast areas of non-forested vegetation occur where climates are suitable for forests. Arguments over why forests are absent, ongoing for over a century, are generally polarized between favouring bottom-up factors (resource constraints) or top-down factors (herbivory, predation, fire). There is increasing support for hypotheses invoking the interaction between the two. This chapter introduces the key hypotheses, their assumptions and predictions. Trophic ecology is a useful framework for exploring departures from the climate potential for trees, focussing explicitly on regulation by consumers, including fire. Alternative stable state theory is emerging as particularly appropriate for explaining forest/non-forest mosaics with each state maintained by positive feedbacks to the preferred environment.

Keywords:   alternative stable states, climate potential, consumer control, green world hypothesis, succession

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