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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 23, 2023
  2. Predicted climate change extremes, such as severe or prolonged drought, may considerably impact carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling in water-limited ecosystems. However, we lack a clear and mechanistic understanding of how extreme climate change events impact ecosystem processes belowground. This study investigates the effects of five years of reoccurring extreme growing season drought (66% reduction, extreme drought treatment) and two-month delay in monsoon precipitation (delayed monsoon treatment) on belowground productivity and biogeochemistry in two geographically adjacent semi-arid grasslands: Chihuahuan Desert grassland dominated by Bouteloua eriopoda and Great Plains grassland dominated by B. gracilis. After five years, extreme drought reduced belowground net primary productivity (BNPP) in the Chihuahuan Desert grassland but not in the Great Plains grassland. Across both grasslands, extreme drought increased soil pH and available soil nutrients nitrate and phosphate. The delayed monsoon treatment reduced BNPP in both grasslands. However, while available soil nitrate decreased in the Chihuahuan Desert grassland, the delayed monsoon treatment overall had little effect on soil ecosystem properties. Extreme drought and delayed monsoon treatments did not significantly impact soil microbial biomass, exoenzyme potentials, or soil C stocks relative to ambient conditions. Our study demonstrates that soil microbial biomass and exoenzyme activity in semi-arid grasslandsmore »are resistant to five years of extreme and prolonged growing season drought despite changes to soil moisture, belowground productivity, soil pH, and nutrient availability« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  3. Questions: Reordering of dominant species is an important mechanism of community response to global environmental change. We asked how wildfire (a pulse event) interacts with directional changes in climate (environmental presses) to affect plant community dynamics in a Chihuahuan Desert grassland. Location: Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro County, New Mexico, USA Methods: Vegetation cover by species was measured twice each year from 1989 to 2019 along two permanently located 400 m long line intercept transects, one in Chihuahuan Desert grassland, and the second in the ecotone between Chihuahuan Desert and Great Plains grasslands. Trends in community structure were plotted over time, and climate sensitivity functions were used to predict how changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) affected vegetation dynamics. Results: Community composition was undergoing gradual change in the absence of disturbance in the ecotone and desert grassland. These changes were related to the reordering of abundances between two foundation grasses, Bouteloua eriopoda and B. gracilis, that together account for >80% of aboveground primary production. However, reordering varied over time in response to wildfire (a pulse) and changes in the PDO (a press). Community dynamics were initially related to the warm and cool phases of the PDO, but in themore »ecotone these relationships changed following wildfire, which reset the system. Conclusions: Species reordering is an important component of community dynamics in response to ecological presses. However, reordering is a complex, non-linear process in response to ecological presses that may change over time and interact with pulse disturbances.« less