Climate Change and...

Annotated Bibliography

Effects of Climate Change

Grasslands and Shrublands

Adler, P. B., HilleRisLambers, J. (2008). The influence of climate and species composition on the population dynamics of ten prairie forbs. Ecology 89 (11): 3049-3060

ABSTRACT: Understanding the relative roles of climate and species interactions in regulating population dynamics, one of the oldest challenges in ecology, is now a prerequisite for predicting species responses to climate change. A lack of case studies limits our ability to generalize about the factors that have regulated populations in the past and will be important in the future. Here, we take a first step toward identifying the drivers of plant population dynamics by studying the influence of climate and species interactions on the recruitment and survival of ten forb species from a Kansas (USA) prairie. Combining a long-term demographic data set with a Bayesian hierarchical-modeling approach, we fit models in which annual survival and recruitment rates are driven by precipitation, temperature, and species composition. Although the effects of these covariates differed among species, three general patterns emerged. First, climate had a greater influence than species composition on historical population dynamics. Second, forecasted increases in mean temperatures are likely to impact the population growth of these species more than future changes in precipitation or composition. Third, the significant effects of both climate and species composition on recruitment suggest that range expansions will be particularly difficult to forecast. Based on these patterns, we recommend field experiments to evaluate the ability of plant species to recruit at expanding range margins under warmer temperatures.

J. M. Anderson (1991). The effects of climate change on decomposition processes in grassland and coniferous forests. Ecological Applications 1 (3): 326-347

ABSTRACT: Current models of climate change predict a reduction of area covered by northern coniferous forests and tundra, and an increase in grasslands. These scenarios also indicate a northerly shift in agricultural regions, bringing virgin soils under cultivation. The direct effects of man on tundra, boreal forest, and temperate grassland ecosystems are likely to result in less carbon mobilization from soils and vegetation than from tropical forests. However, as a consequence of climate change, carbon mineralization rates from arctic and sub-arctic soils could be very rapid under warmer and drier conditions because of low stabilization of soil organic matter (SOM) and enhanced microbial responses to small changes in soil moisture and temperature. Predicting the response of these systems to climate change is complicated where the edaphic environment regulating SOM dynamics is not a direct function of macroclimatic conditions. Grasslands contain a greater proportion of highly stabilized SOM than coniferous forests, distributed over greater depth in the soil profile, which is less susceptible to changes in mineralization rates. It is concluded that short-term responses of soil processes to climate change are more predictable in well-drained grassland and forest soils than in waterlogged soils of the tundra and boreal region. Over longer periods of time, however, plant species and soil types will alter in response to new temperature and moisture regimes above- and belowground interacting with the effects of carbon enrichment and changes in nutrient availability. The dynamics of these plant-soil interactions and the future status of soils in different life zones as sources or sinks of carbon is poorly understood. More data are also needed on the distribution of waterlogged forest soils in the boreal zone and responses to warming, which include the production of methane as well as CO2 . The primary recommendation for future research is for integrated studies on plant and soil processes.

Bontti, E. E., Gathany, M. A., Przeszlowska, A., Haddix, M. L., Owens, S., Burke, I. C., Parton, W. J., Harmon, M. E., DeCant, J. P., Munson, S. M. (2009). Litter decomposition in grasslands of central North America (US Great Plains). Global Change Biology 15 (5): 1356-1363

ABSTRACT: One of the major concerns about global warming is the potential for an increase in decomposition and soil respiration rates, increasing CO2 emissions and creating a positive feedback between global warming and soil respiration. This is particularly important in ecosystems with large belowground biomass, such as grasslands where over 90% of the carbon is allocated belowground. A better understanding of the relative influence of climate and litter quality on litter decomposition is needed to predict these changes accurately in grasslands. The Long-Term Intersite Decomposition Experiment Team (LIDET) dataset was used to evaluate the influence of climatic variables (temperature, precipitation, actual evapotranspiration, and climate decomposition index), and litter quality (lignin content, carbon : nitrogen, and lignin : nitrogen ratios) on leaf and root decomposition in the US Great Plains. Wooden dowels were used to provide a homogeneous litter quality to evaluate the relative importance of above and belowground environments on decomposition. Contrary to expectations, temperature did not explain variation in root and leaf decomposition, whereas precipitation partially explained variation in root decomposition. Percent lignin was the best predictor of leaf and root decomposition. It also explained most variation in root decomposition in models which combined litter quality and climatic variables. Despite the lack of relationship between temperature and root decomposition, temperature could indirectly affect root decomposition through decreased litter quality and increased water deficits. These results suggest that carbon flux from root decomposition in grasslands would increase, as result of increasing temperature, only if precipitation is not limiting. However, where precipitation is limiting, increased temperature would decrease root decomposition, thus likely increasing carbon storage in grasslands. Under homogeneous litter quality, belowground decomposition was faster than aboveground and was best predicted by mean annual precipitation, which also suggests that the high moisture in soil accelerates decomposition belowground.

Fay, P. A., Kelley, A. M., Proctor, A. C., Hui, D., Jin, V. L., Jackson, R. B., Johnson, H. B., Polley, H. W. (2009). Primary productivity and water balance of grassland vegetation on three soils in a continuous CO2 gradient: initial results from the lysimeter CO2 gradient experiment. Ecosystems 12 (5): 699-714

ABSTRACT: Field studies of atmospheric CO2 effects on ecosystems usually include few levels of CO2 and a single soil type, making it difficult to ascertain the shape of responses to increasing CO2 or to generalize across soil types. The Lysimeter CO2 Gradient (LYCOG) chambers were constructed to maintain a linear gradient of atmospheric CO2 (~250 to 500μl l−1 ) on grassland vegetation established on intact soil monoliths from three soil series. The chambers maintained a linear daytime CO2 gradient from 263μl l−1 at the subambient end of the gradient to 502μl l−1 at the superambient end, as well as a linear nighttime CO2 gradient. Temperature variation within the chambers affected aboveground biomass and evapotranspiration, but the effects of temperature were small compared to the expected effects of CO2 . Aboveground biomass on Austin soils was 40% less than on Bastrop and Houston soils. Biomass differences between soils resulted from variation in biomass ofSorghastrum nutans ,Bouteloua curtipendula ,Schizachyrium scoparium (C4 grasses), andSolidago canadensis (C3 forb), suggesting the CO2 sensitivity of these species may differ among soils. Evapotranspiration did not differ among the soils, but the CO2 sensitivity of leaf-level photosynthesis and water use efficiency in S. canadensis was greater on Houston and Bastrop than on Austin soils, whereas the CO2 sensitivity of soil CO2 efflux was greater on Bastrop soils than on Austin or Houston soils. The effects of soil type on CO2 sensitivity may be smaller for some processes that are tightly coupled to microclimate. LYCOG is useful for discerning the effects

Parton, W.J., J.M.O. Scurlock, D. S. Ojima, D. S. Schimel, D.O. Hall (1995). Impact of climate change on grassland production and soil carbon worldwide. Global Change Biology 1 (1): 13-22

ABSTRACT: The impact of climate change and increasing atmospheric CO2 was modelled for 31 temperate and tropical grassland sites, using the CENTURY model. Climate change increased net primary production, except in cold desert steppe regions, and CO2 increased production everywhere. Climate change caused soil carbon to decrease overall, with a loss of 4 Pg from global grasslands after 50 years. Combined climate change and elevated CO2 increased production and reduced global grassland C losses to 2 Pg, with tropical savannas becoming small sinks for soil C. Detection of statistically significant change in plant production would require a 16% change in measured plant production because of high year to year variability in plant production. Most of the predicted changes in plant production are less than 10%.

E. S. Zavaleta, B. D. Thomas, N. R. Chiariello, G.P. Asner, M. R. Shaw, C.B. Field (2003). Plants reverse warming effect on ecosystem water balance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (17): 9892-9893

ABSTRACT: Models predict that global warming may increase aridity in water-limited ecosystems by accelerating evapotranspiration. We show that interactions between warming and the dominant biota in a grassland ecosystem produced the reverse effect. In a 2-year field experiment, simulated warming increased spring soil moisture by 5–10% under both ambient and elevated CO2 . Warming also accelerated the decline of canopy greenness (normalized difference vegetation index) each spring by 11–17% by inducing earlier plant senescence. Lower transpirational water losses resulting from this earlier senescence provide a mechanism for the unexpected rise in soil moisture. Our findings illustrate the potential for organism–environment interactions to modify the direction as well as the magnitude of global change effects on ecosystem functioning.

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