The Ecology of Neotropical Savannas

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Savanna ecosystems play a major role in the natural landscape and in the economic life of vast areas of the tropics. These grasslands are inherently fragile, yet Third World economic development makes human exploitation inevitable. The question that remains is whether utilization of the savannas for agriculture and other purposes will create sustained economic growth or a desert waste.

Guillermo Sarmiento is an unquestionable authority on the grasslands of the New World. His book is the first modern, integrated view of the genesis and function of this important natural system--a synthesis of savanna architecture, seasonal rhythms, productive processes, and water and nutrient economy. Sarmiento's emphasis is on the Venezuelan savannas that he has spent a lifetime studying, but his outlook is far broader. He makes frequent comparisons with other neotropical and tropical savannas and with temperate prairies, and he offers conclusions of global importance, not only for ecologists and agronomist but for anyone concerned with the politics of Third World development.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674224605
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1984
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Guillermo Sarmiento is Professor of Botany, Universidad de los Andes, Venezuela.

Otto T. Solbrig is Bussey Professor of Biology, Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

1. The Problem of the Tropical Savanna

What Is a Tropical Savanna?

Need to Explain the Existence of Savannas

2. The Architecture of the Savanna

Vertical Structure

Horizontal Structure

3. The Seasonal Rhythms of the Savanna Species

Perennial Species with an Annual Semidormant Phase

Evergreen Trees with Seasonal Growth

The Ephemeral Species

Annual Species with a Long Cycle

Perennial Species with a Seasonal Rest Period

Species with Continuous Growth and Blooming

Summary of Phenological Strategies in Venezuelan Savannas

Phenology of the Species in Other Tropical Savannas and Their Comparison with the Venezuelan Savannas

4. The Productive Process

Biomass and Production in Venezuelan Savannas

Methodological and Conceptual Problems in the Study of Productive Processes

The Productive Processes of the Tropical Savannas

Production Data of Other Savannas and Grasslands Summary

5. Water Economy

The Seasonal Vibrations of Soil Moisture

Elements for a Discussion of the Water Balance of Tropical Savannas

General Conclusions

6. Nutrient Economy

The Savanna as an Oligotrophic Ecosystem

The Genesis of the Relief and Its Relation to the Characteristics of the Landscapes and Soils

Chemistry of Savanna and Other Tropical Soils

The Principal Nutrients in the Vegetation

The Problem of Aluminum in the Savannas

Other Nutrients and Mineral Elements in the Vegetation

The Nutrient Cycles

The Nitrogen Economy

The Economy of Other Nutrients

The Nutrient Balance in Tropical Rain Forests

7. Synthesis and Conclusions

Elements for an Interpretation of Savanna Ecosystems



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