In semiarid regions, vegetation constraints on plant growth responses to precipitation (
In terrestrial ecosystems, climate change forecasts of increased frequencies and magnitudes of wet and dry precipitation anomalies are expected to shift precipitation–net primary productivity (PPT–NPP) relationships from linear to nonlinear. Less understood, however, is how future changes in the duration of PPT anomalies will alter PPT–NPP relationships. A review of the literature shows strong potential for the duration of wet and dry PPT anomalies to impact NPP and to interact with the magnitude of anomalies. Within semi‐arid and mesic grassland ecosystems, PPT gradient experiments indicate that short‐duration (1 year) PPT anomalies are often insufficient to drive nonlinear aboveground NPP responses. But long‐term studies, within desert to forest ecosystems, demonstrate how multi‐year PPT anomalies may result in increasing impacts on NPP through time, and thus alter PPT–NPP relationships. We present a conceptual model detailing how NPP responses to PPT anomalies may amplify with the duration of an event, how responses may vary in xeric vs. mesic ecosystems, and how these differences are most likely due to demographic mechanisms. Experiments that can unravel the independent and interactive impacts of the magnitude and duration of wet and dry PPT anomalies are needed, with multi‐site long‐term PPT gradient experiments particularly well‐suited for this task.more » « less
- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Global Change Biology
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- p. 1127-1140
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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In semiarid regions, vegetation constraints on plant growth responses to precipitation (
PPT) are hypothesized to place an upper limit on net primary productivity ( NPP), leading to predictions of future shifts from currently defined linear to saturating NPP– PPTrelationships as increases in both dry and wet PPTextremes occur. We experimentally tested this prediction by imposing a replicated gradient of growing season PPT( GSP, n= 11 levels, n= 4 replicates), ranging from the driest to wettest conditions in the 75‐yr climate record, within a semiarid grassland. We focused on responses of two key ecosystem processes: aboveground NPP( ANPP) and soil respiration ( Rs). ANPPand Rsboth exhibited greater relative responses to wet vs. dry GSPextremes, with a linear relationship consistently best explaining the response of both processes to GSP. However, this responsiveness to GSPpeaked at moderate levels of extremity for both processes, and declined at the most extreme GSPlevels, suggesting that greater sensitivity of ANPPand Rsto wet vs. dry conditions may diminish under increased magnitudes of GSPextremes. Underlying these responses was rapid plant compositional change driven by increased forb production and cover as GSPtransitioned to extreme wet conditions. This compositional shift increased the magnitude of ANPPresponses to wet GSPextremes, as well as the slope and variability explained in the ANPP– GSPrelationship. Our findings suggest that rapid plant compositional change may act as a mediator of semiarid ecosystem responses to predicted changes in GSPextremes.
Climatic changes are altering Earth's hydrological cycle, resulting in altered precipitation amounts, increased interannual variability of precipitation, and more frequent extreme precipitation events. These trends will likely continue into the future, having substantial impacts on net primary productivity (
NPP) and associated ecosystem services such as food production and carbon sequestration. Frequently, experimental manipulations of precipitation have linked altered precipitation regimes to changes in NPP. Yet, findings have been diverse and substantial uncertainty still surrounds generalities describing patterns of ecosystem sensitivity to altered precipitation. Additionally, we do not know whether previously observed correlations between NPPand precipitation remain accurate when precipitation changes become extreme. We synthesized results from 83 case studies of experimental precipitation manipulations in grasslands worldwide. We used meta‐analytical techniques to search for generalities and asymmetries of aboveground NPP( ANPP) and belowground NPP( BNPP) responses to both the direction and magnitude of precipitation change. Sensitivity (i.e., productivity response standardized by the amount of precipitation change) of BNPPwas similar under precipitation additions and reductions, but ANPPwas more sensitive to precipitation additions than reductions; this was especially evident in drier ecosystems. Additionally, overall relationships between the magnitude of productivity responses and the magnitude of precipitation change were saturating in form. The saturating form of this relationship was likely driven by ANPPresponses to very extreme precipitation increases, although there were limited studies imposing extreme precipitation change, and there was considerable variation among experiments. This highlights the importance of incorporating gradients of manipulations, ranging from extreme drought to extreme precipitation increases into future climate change experiments. Additionally, policy and land management decisions related to global change scenarios should consider how ANPPand BNPPresponses may differ, and that ecosystem responses to extreme events might not be predicted from relationships found under moderate environmental changes.
Well‐defined productivity–precipitation relationships of ecosystems are needed as benchmarks for the validation of land models used for future projections. The productivity–precipitation relationship may be studied in two ways: the spatial approach relates differences in productivity to those in precipitation among sites along a precipitation gradient (the spatial fit, with a steeper slope); the temporal approach relates interannual productivity changes to variation in precipitation within sites (the temporal fits, with flatter slopes). Precipitation–reduction experiments in natural ecosystems represent a complement to the fits, because they can reduce precipitation below the natural range and are thus well suited to study potential effects of climate drying. Here, we analyse the effects of dry treatments in eleven multiyear precipitation–manipulation experiments, focusing on changes in the temporal fit. We expected that structural changes in the dry treatments would occur in some experiments, thereby reducing the intercept of the temporal fit and displacing the productivity–precipitation relationship downward the spatial fit. The majority of experiments (72%) showed that dry treatments did not alter the temporal fit. This implies that current temporal fits are to be preferred over the spatial fit to benchmark land‐model projections of productivity under future climate within the precipitation ranges covered by the experiments. Moreover, in two experiments, the intercept of the temporal fit unexpectedly increased due to mechanisms that reduced either water loss or nutrient loss. The expected decrease of the intercept was observed in only one experiment, and only when distinguishing between the late and the early phases of the experiment. This implies that we currently do not know at which precipitation–reduction level or at which experimental duration structural changes will start to alter ecosystem productivity. Our study highlights the need for experiments with multiple, including more extreme, dry treatments, to identify the precipitation boundaries within which the current temporal fits remain valid.
Instrumental records indicate a century-long trend towards drying over western North America and wetting over eastern North America. A continuation of these trends into the future would have significant hydroclimatic and socioeconomic consequences in both the semi-arid Southwest and humid East. Using tree-ring reconstructions and hydrologic simulations of summer soil moisture, we evaluate and contextualize the modern summer aridity gradient within its natural range of variability established over the past 600 years and evaluate the effects of observed and anthropogenic precipitation, temperature, and humidity trends. The 2001–2020 positive (wet east-dry west) aridity gradient was larger than any 20 year period since 1400 CE, preceded by the most negative (wet west-dry east) aridity gradient during 1976–1995, leading to a strong multi-decade reversal in aridity gradient anomalies that was rivaled only by a similar event in the late-16th century. The 2001–2020 aridity gradient was dominated by long-term summer precipitation increases in the Midwest and Northeast, with smaller contributions from more warming in the West than the East and spring precipitation decreases in the Southwest. Multi-model mean climate simulations from Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 6 experiments suggest anthropogenic climate trends should not have strongly affected the aridity gradient thus far. However, there is high uncertainty due to inter-model disagreement on anthropogenic precipitation trends. The recent strengthening of the observed aridity gradient, its increasing dependence on precipitation variability, and disagreement in modeled anthropogenic precipitation trends reveal significant uncertainties in how water resource availability will change across North America in the coming decades.
null (Ed.)In drylands, most studies of extreme precipitation events examine effects of individual years or short-term events, yet multiyear periods (>3 y) are expected to have larger impacts on ecosystem dynamics. Our goal was to take advantage of a sequence of multiple long-term (4-y) periods (dry, wet, average) that occurred naturally within a 26-y time frame to examine responses of plant species richness to extreme rainfall in grasslands and shrublands of the Chihuahuan Desert. Our hypothesis was that richness would be related to rainfall amount, and similar in periods with similar amounts of rainfall. Breakpoint analyses of water-year precipitation showed five sequential periods (1993–2018): AVG1 (mean = 22 cm/y), DRY1 (mean = 18 cm/y), WET (mean = 30 cm/y), DRY2 (mean = 18 cm/y), and AVG2 (mean = 24 cm/y). Detailed analyses revealed changes in daily and seasonal metrics of precipitation over the course of the study: the amount of nongrowing season precipitation decreased since 1993, and summer growing season precipitation increased through time with a corresponding increase in frequency of extreme rainfall events. This increase in summer rainfall could explain the general loss in C3 species after the wet period at most locations through time. Total species richness in the wet period was among the highest in the five periods, with the deepest average storm depth in the summer and the fewest long duration (>45 day) dry intervals across all seasons. For other species-ecosystem combinations, two richness patterns were observed. Compared to AVG2, AVG1 had lower water-year precipitation yet more C3 species in upland grasslands, creosotebush, and mesquite shrublands, and more C4 perennial grasses in tarbush shrublands. AVG1 also had larger amounts of rainfall and more large storms in fall and spring with higher mean depths of storm and lower mean dry-day interval compared with AVG2. While DRY1 and DRY2 had the same amount of precipitation, DRY2 had more C4 species than DRY1 in creosote bush shrublands, and DRY1 had more C3 species than DRY2 in upland grasslands. Most differences in rainfall between these periods occurred in the summer. Legacy effects were observed for C3 species in upland grasslands where no significant change in richness occurred from DRY1 to WET compared with a 41% loss of species from the WET to DRY2 period. The opposite asymmetry pattern was found for C4 subdominant species in creosote bush and mesquite shrublands, where an increase in richness occurred from DRY1 to WET followed by no change in richness from WET to DRY2. Our results show that understanding plant biodiversity of Chihuahuan Desert landscapes as precipitation continues to change will require daily and seasonal metrics of rainfall within a wet-dry period paradigm, as well as a consideration of species traits (photosynthetic pathways, lifespan, morphologies). Understanding these relationships can provide insights into predicting species-level dynamics in drylands under a changing climate.more » « less