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  1. This article is a Commentary onCurasiet al. (2023),239: 562–575.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  2. Abstract. Future global changes will impact carbon (C) fluxes andpools in most terrestrial ecosystems and the feedback of terrestrial carboncycling to atmospheric CO2. Determining the vulnerability of C in ecosystems to future environmental change is thus vital for targeted land management and policy. The C capacity of an ecosystem is a function of its C inputs(e.g., net primary productivity – NPP) and how long C remains in the systembefore being respired back to the atmosphere. The proportion of C capacitycurrently stored by an ecosystem (i.e., its C saturation) provides informationabout the potential for long-term C pools to be altered by environmental andland management regimes. We estimated C capacity, C saturation, NPP, andecosystem C residence time in six US grasslands spanning temperature andprecipitation gradients by integrating high temporal resolution C pool andflux data with a process-based C model. As expected, NPP across grasslandswas strongly correlated with mean annual precipitation (MAP), yet Cresidence time was not related to MAP or mean annual temperature (MAT). We linksoil temperature, soil moisture, and inherent C turnover rates (potentiallydue to microbial function and tissue quality) as determinants of carbon residence time. Overall, we found that intermediates between extremes in moisture andtemperature had low C saturation, indicating that C in these grasslands maytrend upwards and be buffered against global change impacts. Hot and drygrasslands had greatest C saturation due to both small C inputs through NPPand high C turnover rates during soil moisture conditions favorable formicrobial activity. Additionally, leaching of soil C during monsoon eventsmay lead to C loss. C saturation was also high in tallgrass prairie due tofrequent fire that reduced inputs of aboveground plant material.Accordingly, we suggest that both hot, dry ecosystems and those frequentlydisturbed should be subject to careful land management and policy decisionsto prevent losses of C stored in these systems.

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  3. Plants are subject to tradeoffs among growth strategies such that adaptations for optimal growth in one condition can preclude optimal growth in another. Thus, we predicted that a plant species that responds positively to one global change treatment would be less likely than average to respond positively to another treatment, particularly for pairs of treatments that favor distinct traits. We examined plant species abundances in 39 global change experiments manipulating two or more of the following: CO2, nitrogen, phosphorus, water, temperature, or disturbance. Overall, the directional response of a species to one treatment was 13% more likely than expected to oppose its response to a another single-factor treatment. This tendency was detectable across the global dataset but held little predictive power for individual treatment combinations or within individual experiments. While tradeoffs in the ability to respond to different global change treatments exert discernible global effects, other forces obscure their influence in local communities. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
  5. Abstract

    Grassland and other herbaceous communities cover significant portions of Earth's terrestrial surface and provide many critical services, such as carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, and food production. Forecasts of global change impacts on these services will require predictive tools, such as process‐based dynamic vegetation models. Yet, model representation of herbaceous communities and ecosystems lags substantially behind that of tree communities and forests. The limited representation of herbaceous communities within models arises from two important knowledge gaps: first, our empirical understanding of the principles governing herbaceous vegetation dynamics is either incomplete or does not provide mechanistic information necessary to drive herbaceous community processes with models; second, current model structure and parameterization of grass and other herbaceous plant functional types limits the ability of models to predict outcomes of competition and growth for herbaceous vegetation. In this review, we provide direction for addressing these gaps by: (1) presenting a brief history of how vegetation dynamics have been developed and incorporated into earth system models, (2) reporting on a model simulation activity to evaluate current model capability to represent herbaceous vegetation dynamics and ecosystem function, and (3) detailing several ecological properties and phenomena that should be a focus for both empiricists and modelers to improve representation of herbaceous vegetation in models. Together, empiricists and modelers can improve representation of herbaceous ecosystem processes within models. In so doing, we will greatly enhance our ability to forecast future states of the earth system, which is of high importance given the rapid rate of environmental change on our planet.

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  6. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Eutrophication is a widespread environmental change that usually reduces the stabilizing effect of plant diversity on productivity in local communities. Whether this effect is scale dependent remains to be elucidated. Here, we determine the relationship between plant diversity and temporal stability of productivity for 243 plant communities from 42 grasslands across the globe and quantify the effect of chronic fertilization on these relationships. Unfertilized local communities with more plant species exhibit greater asynchronous dynamics among species in response to natural environmental fluctuations, resulting in greater local stability (alpha stability). Moreover, neighborhood communities that have greater spatial variation in plant species composition within sites (higher beta diversity) have greater spatial asynchrony of productivity among communities, resulting in greater stability at the larger scale (gamma stability). Importantly, fertilization consistently weakens the contribution of plant diversity to both of these stabilizing mechanisms, thus diminishing the positive effect of biodiversity on stability at differing spatial scales. Our findings suggest that preserving grassland functional stability requires conservation of plant diversity within and among ecological communities. 
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