Stability of Tree/Grass Vegetation Systems

  1. A. Berger,
  2. R. E. Dickinson and
  3. John W. Kidson
  1. Peter S. Eagleson

Published Online: 18 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM052p0109

Understanding Climate Change

Understanding Climate Change

How to Cite

Eagleson, P. S. (1989) Stability of Tree/Grass Vegetation Systems, in Understanding Climate Change (eds A. Berger, R. E. Dickinson and J. W. Kidson), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM052p0109

Author Information

  1. Department of Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1989

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875904573

Online ISBN: 9781118666517



  • Climate changes—Congresses


The average annual water balance of tree/grass vegetation systems is modeled as an interactive competition for water and energy. Ecological optimality hypotheses are introduced which allow specification of the fractional area covered by woodland canopy and by grass canopy under conditions of natural equilibrium. Three equilibrium states are found. Two are monocultures, i.e., grassland and closed forest which are shown to be unstable with respect to perturbations of canopy cover. The third, a tree/grass mixture, is shown to be stable with respect to perturbations of canopy cover but metastable with respect to climate change.