Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 507703
Title Remotely sensed canopy height reveals three pantropical ecosystem states
Author(s) Xu, Chi; Hantson, Stijn; Holmgren, Milena; Nes, Egbert H. Van; Staal, Arie; Scheffer, Marten
Source Ecology 97 (2016)9. - ISSN 0012-9658 - p. 2518 - 2521.
Department(s) Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management
Resource Ecology
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2016
Keyword(s) Alternative stable states - Climate change - Desert - Rainforest - Remote sensing - Savanna - Tree cover

Although canopy height has long been a focus of interest in ecology, it has remained difficult to study at large spatial scales. Recently, satellite-borne LiDAR equipment produced the first systematic high resolution maps of vegetation height worldwide. Here we show that this new resource reveals three marked modes in tropical canopy height ∼40, ∼12, and ∼2 m corresponding to forest, savanna, and treeless landscapes. The distribution of these modes is consistent with the often hypothesized forest-savanna bistability and suggests that both states can be stable in areas with a mean annual precipitation between ~1,500 and ~2,000 mm. Although the canopy height states correspond largely to the much discussed tree cover states, there are differences, too. For instance, there are places with savanna-like sparse tree cover that have a forest-like high canopy, suggesting that rather than true savanna, those are thinned relicts of forest. This illustrates how complementary sets of remotely sensed indicators may provide increasingly sophisticated ways to study ecological phenomena at a global scale.

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