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  Palaeo plant diversity in subtropical Africa – ecological assessment of a conceptual model of climate–vegetation interaction

Groner, V., Claussen, M., & Reick, C. H. (2015). Palaeo plant diversity in subtropical Africa – ecological assessment of a conceptual model of climate–vegetation interaction. Climate of the Past, 11, 1361-1374. doi:10.5194/cp-11-1361-2015.

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 Creators:
Groner, Vivienne1, 2, Author           
Claussen, Martin1, Author                 
Reick, Christian H.3, Author           
Affiliations:
1Director’s Research Group LES, The Land in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society, ou_913564              
2IMPRS on Earth System Modelling, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society, Bundesstraße 53, 20146 Hamburg, DE, ou_913547              
3Global Vegetation Modelling, The Land in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society, ou_913562              

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 Abstract: We here critically re-assess a conceptual model dealing with the potential effect of plant diversity on climate–vegetation feedback, and provide an improved version adjusted to plant types that prevailed during the African Humid Period (AHP). Our work contributes to the understanding of the timing and abruptness of vegetation decline at the end of the AHP, investigated by various working groups during the past two decades using a wide range of model and palaeoproxy reconstruction approaches. While some studies indicated an abrupt collapse of vegetation at the end of the AHP, others suggested a gradual decline. Claussen et al. (2013) introduced a new aspect in the discussion, proposing that plant diversity in terms of moisture requirements could affect the strength of climate–vegetation feedback. In a conceptual model study, the authors illustrated that high plant diversity could stabilize an ecosystem, whereas a reduction in plant diversity might allow for an abrupt regime shift under gradually changing environmental conditions. Based on recently published pollen data and the current state of ecological literature, we evaluate the representation of climate–vegetation feedback in this conceptual approach, and put the suggested conclusions into an ecological context. In principle, the original model reproduces the main features of different plant types interacting together with climate although vegetation determinants other than precipitation are neglected. However, the model cannot capture the diversity of AHP vegetation. Especially tropical gallery forest taxa, indirectly linked to local precipitation, are not appropriately represented. In order to fill the gaps in the description of plant types regarding AHP diversity, we modify the original model in four main aspects. First, the growth ranges in terms of moisture requirements are extended by upper limits to represent full environmental envelopes. Second, data-based AHP plant types replace the hypothetical plant types. Third, the tropical gallery forest type follows the gradual insolation forcing with a linear approximation because it relies more on large scale climate than on regional precipitation amounts. Fourth, we replace the dimensionless vegetation cover fractions with individual effective leaf areas to capture different contributions to climate–vegetation feedback. These adjustments allow for the consideration of a broader spectrum of plant types, plant-climate feedbacks, and implicitly for plant-plant interactions. With the consideration of full environmental envelopes and the prescribed retreat of the tropical gallery forest type we can simulate a diverse mosaic-like environment as it was reconstructed from pollen. Transient simulations of this diverse environment support the buffering effect of high functional diversity on ecosystem performance and precipitation, concluded by Claussen et al. (2013) from the simple approach. Sensitivity studies with different combinations of plant types highlight the importance of plant composition on system stability, and the stabilizing or destabilizing potential a single functional type may inherit. In a broader view, the adjusted model provides a useful tool to study the roles of real plant types in an ecosystem and their combined climate–vegetation feedback under changing precipitation regimes.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2015-1220152015-072015-10-14
 Publication Status: Issued
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 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.5194/cp-11-1361-2015
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Title: Climate of the Past
Source Genre: Journal
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Publ. Info: Katlenberg-Lindau, Germany : Published by Copernicus on behalf of the European Geosciences Union
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 11 Sequence Number: - Start / End Page: 1361 - 1374 Identifier: ISSN: 1814-9324
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/1000000000033790