skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Keen, Rachel"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Cavaleri, Molly (Ed.)

    Leaf trait variation enables plants to utilize large gradients of light availability that exist across canopies of high leaf area index (LAI), allowing for greater net carbon gain while reducing light availability for understory competitors. While these canopy dynamics are well understood in forest ecosystems, studies of canopy structure of woody shrubs in grasslands are lacking. To evaluate the investment strategy used by these shrubs, we investigated the vertical distribution of leaf traits and physiology across canopies of Cornus drummondii, the predominant woody encroaching shrub in the Kansas tallgrass prairie. We also examined the impact of disturbance by browsing and grazing on these factors. Our results reveal that leaf mass per area (LMA) and leaf nitrogen per area (Na) varied approximately threefold across canopies of C. drummondii, resulting in major differences in the physiological functioning of leaves. High LMA leaves had high photosynthetic capacity, while low LMA leaves had a novel strategy for maintaining light compensation points below ambient light levels. The vertical allocation of leaf traits in C. drummondii canopies was also modified in response to browsing, which increased light availability at deeper canopy depths. As a result, LMA and Na increased at lower canopy depths, leading to a greater photosynthetic capacity deeper in browsed canopies compared to control canopies. This response, along with increased light availability, facilitated greater photosynthesis and resource-use efficiency deeper in browsed canopies compared to control canopies. Our results illustrate how C. drummondii facilitates high LAI canopies and a compensatory growth response to browsing—both of which are key factors contributing to the success of C. drummondii and other species responsible for grassland woody encroachment.

    more » « less
  3. Woody encroachment is a widespread phenomenon in grassland ecosystems, driven by overgrazing, fire suppression, nitrogen deposition and climate change, among other environmental changes. The influence of woody encroachment on processes such as chemical weathering however is poorly understood. In particular, for fast reactions such as carbonate weathering, root traits associated with woody encroachment (e.g., coarser, deeper, and longer residence times) can potentially change fluxes of inorganic carbon into streams and back to the atmosphere, providing CO2-climate feedbacks. Here we examine the influence of deepening roots arising from woody encroachment on catchment water balance and carbonate weathering rates at Konza a tallgrass prairie within a carbonate terrain where woody encroachment is suspected to drive the groundwater alkalinity upwards. We use a watershed reactive transport model BioRT-Flux-PIHM to understand the ramifications of deepening roots. Stream discharge and evapotranspiration (ET) measurements were used to calibrate the hydrology model. The subsurface CO2 concentration, water quality data for groundwater, stream, soil water and precipitation were used to constrain the soil respiration and carbonate dissolution reaction rates. The hydrology model has a Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency value of 0.88. Modelling results from numerical experiments indicate that woody encroachment results in overall lower stream flow due to higher ET, yet the groundwater recharge is higher due to deep macropore development from deepening roots. The deeper macropores enhance carbonate weathering rate as more acidic, CO2-rich water recharges the deeper calcite bedrock. Accounting for the change in inorganic carbon fluxes caused by such land use changes gives a better estimate of carbon fluxes in the biosphere. Such knowledge is essential for effective planning of climate change mitigation strategies. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Riparian zones and the streams they border provide vital habitat for organisms, water quality protection, and other important ecosystem services. These areas are under pressure from local (land use/land cover change) to global (climate change) processes. Woody vegetation is expanding in grassland riparian zones worldwide. Here we report on a decade‐long watershed‐scale mechanical removal of woody riparian vegetation along 4.5 km of stream channel in a before–after control impact experiment. Prior to this removal, woody plants had expanded into grassy riparian areas, associated with a decline in streamflow, loss of grassy plant species, and other ecosystem‐scale impacts. We confirmed some expected responses, including rapid increases in stream nutrients and sediments, disappearance of stream mosses, and decreased organic inputs to streams via riparian leaves. We were surprised that nutrient and sediment increases were transient for 3 years, that there was no recovery of stream discharge, and that areas with woody removal did not shift back to a grassland state, even when reseeded with grassland species. Rapid expansion of shrubs (Cornus drummondii,Prunus americana) in the areas where trees were removed allowed woody vegetation to remain dominant despite repeating the cutting every 2 years. Our results suggest woody expansion can fundamentally alter terrestrial and aquatic habitat connections in grasslands, resulting in inexorable movement toward a new ecosystem state. Human pressures, such as climate change, atmospheric CO2increases, and elevated atmospheric nitrogen deposition, could continue to push the ecosystem along a trajectory that is difficult to change. Our results suggest that predicting relationships between riparian zones and the streams they border could be difficult in the face of global change in all biomes, even in well‐studied sites.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Climate warming in recent decades has negatively impacted forest health in the western United States. Here, we report on potential early warning signals (EWS) for drought‐related mortality derived from measurements of tree‐ring growth (ring width index; RWI) and carbon isotope discrimination (∆13C), primarily focused on ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). Sampling was conducted in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, near the epicenter of drought severity and mortality associated with the 2012–2015 California drought and concurrent outbreak of western pine beetle (Dendroctonus brevicomis). At this site, we found that widespread mortality was presaged by five decades of increasing sensitivity (i.e., increased explained variation) of both tree growth and ∆13C to Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). We hypothesized that increasing sensitivity of tree growth and ∆13C to hydroclimate constitute EWS that indicate an increased likelihood of widespread forest mortality caused by direct and indirect effects of drought. We then tested these EWS in additional ponderosa pine‐dominated forests that experienced varying mortality rates associated with the same California drought event. In general, drier sites showed increasing sensitivity of RWI to PDSI over the last century, as well as higher mortality following the California drought event compared to wetter sites. Two sites displayed evidence that thinning or fire events that reduced stand basal area effectively reversed the trend of increasing hydroclimate sensitivity. These comparisons indicate that reducing competition for soil water and/or decreasing bark beetle host tree density via forest management—particularly in drier regions—may buffer these forests against drought stress and associated mortality risk. EWS such as these could provide land managers more time to mitigate the extent or severity of forest mortality in advance of droughts. Substantial efforts at deploying additional dendrochronological research in concert with remote sensing and forest modeling will aid in forecasting of forest responses to continued climate warming.

    more » « less