The shaping of savannas: fire versus the mammalian megafauna

OCTF seminar followed by drinks – all welcome, no booking required

What did the world look like before the extinction of the megafauna? Did mammals create very different ecosystems and if so, over large areas? Or were their effects local and idiosyncratic? To answer these questions it is necessary to weigh the importance of climate, mammals, and fire, a very wide-spread consumer which competes with mammals for ‘food’ (fuel). Studies at a range of scales in African savannas have helped to reveal the domains where mammals, fire, or neither shape the vegetation. Recent studies suggest different times of origin, under different environmental circumstances, of mammal versus fire-structured savannas. These studies help constrain reconstructions of the ecology of ecosystems before megafaunal extinctions.

William Bond is Chief Scientist for the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and Emeritus Professor in Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town. He is an ecologist with broad interests in the processes most strongly influencing vegetation change in the past and present, including fire, vertebrate herbivory, atmospheric CO2 and climate change. In addition, Professor Bond has worked on plant-animal mutualisms and on plant form and function. Particular research interests include grasslands and savanna ecosystems, and winter-rainfall shrublands. Prof. Bond has served on the Boards of the South African National Botanical Institute and of Cape Nature and on the Editorial Boards of several journals. He has been A rated four successive times by the National Research Foundation of South Africa and is a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences.