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  1. Reflectance spectra provide integrative measures of plant phenotypes by capturing chemical, morphological, anatomical and architectural trait information. Here, we investigate the linkages between plant spectral variation, and spectral and resource-use complementarity that contribute to ecosystem productivity. In both a forest and prairie grassland diversity experiment, we delineated n -dimensional hypervolumes using wavelength bands of reflectance spectra to test the association between the spectral space occupied by individual plants and their growth, as well as between the spectral space occupied by plant communities and ecosystem productivity. We show that the spectral space occupied by individuals increased with their growth, and the spectral space occupied by plant communities increased with ecosystem productivity. Furthermore, ecosystem productivity was better explained by inter-individual spectral complementarity than by the large spectral space occupied by productive individuals. Our results indicate that spectral hypervolumes of plants can reflect ecological strategies that shape community composition and ecosystem function, and that spectral complementarity can reveal resource-use complementarity.
  2. Agricultural production in the Great Plains provides a significant amount of food for the United States while contributing greatly to farm income in the region. However, recurrent droughts and expansion of crop production are increasing irrigation demand, leading to extensive pumping and attendant depletion of the Ogallala aquifer. In order to optimize water use, increase the sustainability of agricultural production, and identify best management practices, identification of food–water conflict hotspots in the Ogallala Aquifer Region (OAR) is necessary. We used satellite remote sensing time series of agricultural production (net primary production, NPP) and total water storage (TWS) to identify hotspots of food–water conflicts within the OAR and possible reasons behind these conflicts. Mean annual NPP (2001–2018) maps clearly showed intrusion of high NPP, aided by irrigation, into regions of historically low NPP (due to precipitation and temperature). Intrusion is particularly acute in the northern portion of OAR, where mean annual TWS (2002–2020) is high. The Oklahoma panhandle and Texas showed large decreasing TWS trends, which indicate the negative effects of current water demand for crop production on TWS. Nebraska demonstrated an increasing TWS trend even with a significant increase of NPP. A regional analysis of NPP and TWS can conveymore »important information on current and potential conflicts in the food–water nexus and facilitate sustainable solutions. Methods developed in this study are relevant to other water-constrained agricultural production regions.« less
  3. Abstract

    Imaging spectroscopy provides the opportunity to incorporate leaf and canopy optical data into ecological studies, but the extent to which remote sensing of vegetation can enhance the study of belowground processes is not well understood. In terrestrial systems, aboveground and belowground vegetation quantity and quality are coupled, and both influence belowground microbial processes and nutrient cycling. We hypothesized that ecosystem productivity, and the chemical, structural and phylogenetic‐functional composition of plant communities would be detectable with remote sensing and could be used to predict belowground plant and soil processes in two grassland biodiversity experiments: the BioDIV experiment at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in Minnesota and the Wood River Nature Conservancy experiment in Nebraska. We tested whether aboveground vegetation chemistry and productivity, as detected from airborne sensors, predict soil properties, microbial processes and community composition. Imaging spectroscopy data were used to map aboveground biomass, green vegetation cover, functional traits and phylogenetic‐functional community composition of vegetation. We examined the relationships between the image‐derived variables and soil carbon and nitrogen concentration, microbial community composition, biomass and extracellular enzyme activity, and soil processes, including net nitrogen mineralization. In the BioDIV experiment—which has low overall diversity and productivity despite high variation in each—belowground processesmore »were driven mainly by variation in the amount of organic matter inputs to soils. As a consequence, soil respiration, microbial biomass and enzyme activity, and fungal and bacterial composition and diversity were significantly predicted by remotely sensed vegetation cover and biomass. In contrast, at Wood River—where plant diversity and productivity were consistently higher—belowground processes were driven mainly by variation in the quality of aboveground inputs to soils. Consequently, remotely sensed functional, chemical and phylogenetic composition of vegetation predicted belowground extracellular enzyme activity, microbial biomass, and net nitrogen mineralization rates but aboveground biomass (or cover) did not. The contrasting associations between the quantity (productivity) and quality (composition) of aboveground inputs with belowground soil attributes provide a basis for using imaging spectroscopy to understand belowground processes across productivity gradients in grassland systems. However, a mechanistic understanding of how above and belowground components interact among different ecosystems remains critical to extending these results broadly.

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