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Title: As above, not so below: Long‐term dynamics of net primary production across a dryland transition zone
Abstract

Drylands are key contributors to interannual variation in the terrestrial carbon sink, which has been attributed primarily to broad‐scale climatic anomalies that disproportionately affect net primary production (NPP) in these ecosystems. Current knowledge around the patterns and controls of NPP is based largely on measurements of aboveground net primary production (ANPP), particularly in the context of altered precipitation regimes. Limited evidence suggests belowground net primary production (BNPP), a major input to the terrestrial carbon pool, may respond differently than ANPP to precipitation, as well as other drivers of environmental change, such as nitrogen deposition and fire. Yet long‐term measurements of BNPP are rare, contributing to uncertainty in carbon cycle assessments. Here, we used 16 years of annual NPP measurements to investigate responses of ANPP and BNPP to several environmental change drivers across a grassland–shrubland transition zone in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. ANPP was positively correlated with annual precipitation across this landscape; however, this relationship was weaker within sites. BNPP, on the other hand, was weakly correlated with precipitation only in Chihuahuan Desert shrubland. Although NPP generally exhibited similar trends among sites, temporal correlations between ANPP and BNPP within sites were weak. We found chronic nitrogen enrichment stimulated ANPP, whereas a one‐time prescribed burn reduced ANPP for nearly a decade. Surprisingly, BNPP was largely unaffected by these factors. Together, our results suggest that BNPP is driven by a different set of controls than ANPP. Furthermore, our findings imply belowground production cannot be inferred from aboveground measurements in dryland ecosystems. Improving understanding around the patterns and controls of dryland NPP at interannual to decadal scales is fundamentally important because of their measurable impact on the global carbon cycle. This study underscores the need for more long‐term measurements of BNPP to improve assessments of the terrestrial carbon sink, particularly in the context of ongoing environmental change.

 
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Award ID(s):
1655499 1856383
NSF-PAR ID:
10419764
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley-Blackwell
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Global Change Biology
Volume:
29
Issue:
14
ISSN:
1354-1013
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 3941-3953
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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