Savanna expansion in Trinidad, W.I.

Paul L. Comeau, Colin C. Clubbe


Neotropical savannas have received considerable attention over the years because of their ecology, specially adapted plants and unusual soil conditions (Myers 1933, Beard 1953. Blydenstein 1967, Ahmad and Jones 1969a, 1969b, Eilen 1972, Sarmiento and Monasterio 1975, Medina 1982, Sarmiento 1984 ). In Trinidad, most of the published work on this unique ecosystem (Beard 1946. 1953, Richardson 1963, Quesnel 1979) has concentrated on the vegetation dynamics of the open Savannas with recent studies focusing on the role fire plays in altering species composition (Schwab 1988, Comeau 1990). As a result, little attention has been directed towards the marginal or ecotonal areas (Leolaud 1992) except to point out the sharp boundaries that exist between forest and savanna (Marshall [934. Beard 1946. 1953). The frequent burning of savanna margins is mentioned by Richardson ( 1963) but no evidence is presented to indicate that savanna plants are colonizing these damaged areas. Recent field work by the authors at the Aripo Savannas has shown that few sharp ecotonal boundaries remain, that a lot of the marginal area has been damage d by fire and that evidence exists which supports savanna expansion.

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