Minimalistic models of savanna vegetation dynamics to address broad spatial scales in presence of scarce data


  • Pierre Charles Couteron* Institut de Recherche pour le DГ©veloppement (IRD)
  • Alexis Tchuinté-Tamen University of Yaounde 1
  • Valaire Ivric Yatat University of Yaounde 1
  • Vincent Deblauwe University of California, Los Angeles
  • Samuel Bowong University of Douala
  • Jean-Jules Tewa University of YaoundГ© 1
  • Yves Dumont Cirad


The savanna biome encompasses variations of vegetation physiognomies that traduce complex dynamical responses to the gradients of decreasing rainfall leading from tropical forests to hot deserts. Such responses are shaped by interactions between woody and grassy plants that can be either direct, fire-mediated or both. There has been increasing evidence that several states of vegetation, sometimes highly contrasted ones may durably coexist under similar rainfall conditions suggesting either multi-stability or very long transitions. These fascinating questions have triggered burgeoning modelling efforts which have, however, not yet delivered an integrated picture liable to furnish at broad scales (i.e. for fractions of continent) sensible predictions of possible vegetation. Such a ”big picture” is desirable for figuring out the future of vegetation in the face of climate and anthropic change scenarios. It is also necessary for applications to territories devoid of reference data and long term observation sites (that is, most of tropical Africa). In this talk, we will advocate the design of minimalistic models, capturing essential processes while retaining sufficient mathematical tractability and restricting themselves to a minimal set of assessable parameters (e.g. [1]). We will also envisage how ongoing progresses in space observation may help calibrating or validating such models (e.g. [2]).

Author Biographies

Pierre Charles Couteron*, Institut de Recherche pour le DГ©veloppement (IRD)

Directeur de Recherche (senior scientist) at IRD (France), affiliated to AMAP lab (Montpellier, France) and posted at ENS, Unviersity of YaoundГ© (Cameroon)

Vincent Deblauwe, University of California, Los Angeles

CTR, visiting scientist at IITA, Yaounde, Cameroon

Jean-Jules Tewa, University of YaoundГ© 1

Advanced Engineering School (POlytech)

Yves Dumont, Cirad

Amap Lab, Montpellier, France


A. TchuintГ© Tamen, Y. Dumont, J.J. Tewa, S. Bowong, and P. Couteron. A minimalistic model of tree-grass interactions using impulsive differential equations and non-linear feedback functions of grass biomass onto fire-induced

tree mortality. Math. Comp. Simu., 133:265-297, 2017.

V Deblauwe, P Couteron, O Lejeune, J Bogaert, N Barbier. Environmental

modulation of self-organized periodic vegetation patterns in Sudan. Ecography 34 (6), 990–1001, 2011.






Keynote/Invited Presentations