Savannas occupy about one-eighth of the land surface worldwide but the vegetation distribution in this biome is not properly understood. Furthermore, land use and climate change are propelling shifts in vegetation characteristics and their spatial distribution. Also, at the savanna-forest boundary, where the two biomes are known to exist as alternative states for same climatic conditions, the importance of spatial heterogeneity has been recognized but not well understood. This project will study how the dynamic interaction of vegetation with its environment leads to spatial organization of vegetation in the savannas including at the savanna-forest transition zone. Motivated by recent findings, it will further explore the significance of these patterned structures in increasing ecosystem resilience and reversing transition of ecosystem states. The research will use multidisciplinary knowledge from ecology and applied mathematics. The fellow, Mr. Swarnendu Banerjee, being from a mathematical background but with experience in ecological modelling has the most appropriate foundations to carry out the proposed research. This project will aptly complement his skills by training him in tropical ecology, spatial modelling and state-of-the-art mathematical methods, which will help him grow as an independent scientist in the field. During this project, he will also develop his transferrable skills in terms of writing and communication, project management, language acquisition and networking. The research that will be carried out will provide fundamental insights into the savanna dynamics potentially opening up novel avenues in savanna conservation research. The results generated from the project will be disseminated to the scientific community via scientific conferences and journal publications. Various means like popular science articles, animated videos and social media platforms will be used to communicate the ideas to the general public.
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