Climate extremes, such as drought, are increasing in frequency and intensity, and the ecological consequences of these extreme events can be substantial and widespread. Yet, little is known about the factors that determine recovery (or resilience) of ecosystem function post-drought. Such knowledge is particularly important because post-drought recovery periods can be protracted depending on drought legacy effects (e.g., loss key plant populations, altered community structure and/or biogeochemical processes). These drought legacies may alter ecosystem function for many years post-drought and may impact future sensitivity (both resistance and resilience) to climate extremes. With forecasts of more frequent drought, there is an imperative to understand whether and how post-drought legacies will affect ecosystem response to future drought events. To address this knowledge gap, we experimentally imposed over an eight year period two extreme growing season droughts, each two years in duration followed by a two-year recovery period, in annually burned tallgrass prairie.
To assess response of recovery of tallgrass prairie plant community composition and ecosystem function to repeated extreme drought events.