Preprint Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

Farmlands Feature Greater Woody Cover than Savannas in Semi-Arid West Africa

Version 1 : Received: 21 March 2017 / Approved: 22 March 2017 / Online: 22 March 2017 (15:55:14 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Brandt, M.; Rasmussen, K.; Hiernaux, P.; Herrmann, S.; Tucker, C.J.; Tong, X.; Tian, F.; Mertz, O.; Kergoat, L.; Mbow, C.; David, J.; Melocik, K.; Dendoncker, M.; Vincke, C.; Fensholt, R. Reduction of tree cover in West African woodlands and promotion in semi-arid farmlands. Nature Geoscience 2018, 11, 328-333. Brandt, M.; Rasmussen, K.; Hiernaux, P.; Herrmann, S.; Tucker, C.J.; Tong, X.; Tian, F.; Mertz, O.; Kergoat, L.; Mbow, C.; David, J.; Melocik, K.; Dendoncker, M.; Vincke, C.; Fensholt, R. Reduction of tree cover in West African woodlands and promotion in semi-arid farmlands. Nature Geoscience 2018, 11, 328-333.

Journal reference: Nature Geosciense 2018, 11, 328-333
DOI: 10.1038/s41561-018-0092-x

Abstract

Woody vegetation in farmland acts as a carbon sink and provides ecosystem services for local people, but no macro-scale assessments of the impact of management and climate on woody cover exists for drylands. Here we make use of very high spatial resolution satellite imagery to derive wall-to-wall woody cover patterns in tropical West African drylands. In arid and semi-arid Sahel, areas of more people are associated with more trees: mean woody cover is greater in farmlands (12%) than in savannas (6%), and likewise it is higher close to villages than further away. In sub-humid savannas of West Africa, woody cover is generally above 20% and decreases with increasing population density, but remains around 15% in farmlands, independent of rainfall. In the region as a whole, rainfall, terrain and soil are the most important (80%) determinants of woody cover, while management factors play a smaller (20%) role. We conclude that agricultural expansion cannot generally be claimed to cause woody cover losses, and that observations in Sahel contradict simplistic ideas of a high negative correlation between population density and woody cover.

Subject Areas

land use; management; woody cover determinants; human-environment; Sahel

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