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  1. Abstract

    Prediction of abrupt ecosystem transitions resulting from climatic change will be an essential element of adaptation strategies in the coming decades. In the arid southwest USA, the collapse and recovery of long‐lived perennial grasses have important effects on ecosystem services, but the causes of these variations have been poorly understood. Here we use a quality‐controlled vegetation monitoring dataset initiated in 1915 to show that grass cover dynamics during the 20th century were closely correlated to the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) index. The relationship out‐performed models correlating grasses to yearly precipitation and drought indices, suggesting that ecosystem transitions attributed only to local disturbances were instead influenced by climate teleconnections. Shifts in PDO phase over time were associated with the persistent loss of core grass species and recovery of transient species, so recovery of grasses in aggregate concealed significant changes in species composition. However, the relationship between PDO and grass cover broke down after 1995; grass cover is consistently lower than PDO would predict. The decoupling of grass cover from the PDO suggests that a threshold had been crossed in which warming or land degradation overwhelmed the ability of any grass species to recover during favorable periods.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Flash drought is characterized by a period of rapid drought intensification with impacts on agriculture, water resources, ecosystems, and the human environment. Addressing these challenges requires a fundamental understanding of flash drought occurrence. This study identifies global hotspots for flash drought from 1980–2015 via anomalies in evaporative stress and the standardized evaporative stress ratio. Flash drought hotspots exist over Brazil, the Sahel, the Great Rift Valley, and India, with notable local hotspots over the central United States, southwestern Russia, and northeastern China. Six of the fifteen study regions experienced a statistically significant increase in flash drought during 1980–2015. In contrast, three study regions witnessed a significant decline in flash drought frequency. Finally, the results illustrate that multiple pathways of research are needed to further our understanding of the regional drivers of flash drought and the complex interactions between flash drought and socioeconomic impacts.

     
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