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Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
Contact Information
  • Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems
  • 333 Broadway SE. Suite 115
  • Albuquerque, NM 87102-3497
  • 505-724-3660
  • 505-724-3688 (fax)
You are here: Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems / Research by Project / Shrub Encroachment, Fire, Climate Change

Shrub Encroachment, Fire, Climate Change, and Carbon Sequestration

Project Title

Shrub Encroachment, Wildland Fire, Climate Change, and Carbon Sequestration in Three Southwestern Grassland Ecosystems


Shrub encroachment into C4 dominated grassland is occurring worldwide. Causes include overgrazing, fire suppression, and climate change. The consequences of shrub encroachment include loss of plant species diversity and altered soil C and N dynamics, which are likely mediated through changes in the soil microbial community. Fire is an important management tool in grassland ecosystems. Global change is leading to a more variable climate that includes more frequent extreme events, along with a potential shift in winter/summer rainfall patterns (Pryor and Schoof 2008). Given the uncertainty of future scenarios for climate change and climate variability in the southwestern US we need to know now how fire seasonality (and over the long-term fire frequency), along with climate variability and climate change will affect ecosystem function including soil nutrient availability, grass establishment and abundance, forb species richness, net primary productivity, and carbon storage in these highly dynamic aridland ecosystems. We are in the initial stages of conducting a multifaceted research program that will address the individual and combined impacts of shrub encroachment, precipitation variability, and warming on arid grassland C and N dynamics. Our study sites are arrayed along a latitudinal gradient from northeastern Colorado (SGS LTER) to southern New Mexico (JOR LTER). Our goal is to use field experiments moving intact soil monoliths (with blue grama) across a climatic gradient to simulate climate change and measure carbon and nitrogen fluxes in arid grasslands across this geographic (climatic) gradient.

GSD Principal Investigators

Ford, Paulette    Research Ecologist    505-724-3670

Cooperators and Sponsors

  • Scott Collins, PI Sevilleta LTER
  • Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands, Cibola National Forest
  • Sevilleta and Jornada LTER programs
  • Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge
  • USDA Jornada Experimental Range

Related Links

Ecosystem Services from National Grasslands

Sevilleta LTER: Long Term Ecological Research