Madagascar's grasses and grasslands: anthropogenic or natural?

Vorontsova, Maria S, Besnard, Guillaume, Forest, Félix, Malakasi, Panagiota, Moat, Justin, Clayton, W. Derek, Ficinski, Paweł, Savva, George M., Nanjarisoa, Olinirina P., Razanatsoa, Jacqueline, Randriatsara, Fetra O., Kimeu, John M., Luke, W. R. Quentin, Kayombo, Canisius and Linder, H. Peter (2016) Madagascar's grasses and grasslands: anthropogenic or natural? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 283 (1823). ISSN 0962-8452

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Grasses, by their high productivity even under very low pCO2, their ability to survive repeated burning and to tolerate long dry seasons, have transformed the terrestrial biomes in the Neogene and Quaternary. The expansion of grasslands at the cost of biodiverse forest biomes in Madagascar is often postulated as a consequence of the Holocene settlement of the island by humans. However, we show that the Malagasy grass flora has many indications of being ancient with a long local evolutionary history, much predating the Holocene arrival of humans. First, the level of endemism in the Madagascar grass flora is well above the global average for large islands. Second, a survey of many of the more diverse areas indicates that there is a very high spatial and ecological turnover in the grass flora, indicating a high degree of niche specialization. We also find some evidence that there are both recently disturbed and natural stable grasslands: phylogenetic community assembly indicates that recently severely disturbed grasslands are phylogenetically clustered, whereas more undisturbed grasslands tend to be phylogenetically more evenly distributed. From this evidence, it is likely that grass communities existed in Madagascar long before human arrival and so were determined by climate, natural grazing and other natural factors. Humans introduced zebu cattle farming and increased fire frequency, and may have triggered an expansion of the grasslands. Grasses probably played the same role in the modification of the Malagasy environments as elsewhere in the tropics.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2016 The Authors.
Uncontrolled Keywords: poaceae,neogene,endemism,species turnover,phylogenetic community assembly,sdg 13 - climate action,sdg 15 - life on land ,/dk/atira/pure/sustainabledevelopmentgoals/climate_action
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Norwich Epidemiology Centre
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Research Groups > Norwich Epidemiology Centre
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Research Groups > Health in Later Life (former - to 2017)
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2016 09:23
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2023 02:45
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2262


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