Ecological Studies Volume 42, 1982, pp 556-590

Aspects of the Stability and Resilience of Savanna Ecosystems

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Savannas are among the most variable of terrestrial ecosystems. They undergo large and frequent changes in production, composition and structure and they contain some of the worst examples of degradation by man. There are, accordingly, many references to them as “fragile” and “brittle” ecosystems, with frequent predictions of imminent “collapse”. But these terms have been used loosely, as jargon, and we need now to progress beyond this vague terminology. What, precisely, do we mean by these terms? Is it possible to be more precise? More specifically, can we achieve an understanding of the equilibrium behaviour of savannas? For this deals with how they change, and how much they can change before the change is irrevocable.