Climate change alters growing season flux dynamics in mesic grasslands

TitleClimate change alters growing season flux dynamics in mesic grasslands
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsPetrie, MD, Brunsell, N, Nippert, JB
JournalTheoretical and Applied Climatology
Pagination427 -440
Accession NumberKNZ001440
Keywordsecohydrology, Konza Prairie, Low-dimensional modeling, Nonlinear interactions, Soil moisture feedback

Changing climate could affect the functioning of grassland ecosystems through variation in climate forcings and by altering the interactions of forcings with ecological processes. Both the short and long-term effects of changing forcings and ecosystem interactions are a critical part of future impacts to ecosystem ecology and hydrology. To explore these interactions and identify possible characteristics of climate change impacts to mesic grasslands, we employ a low-dimensional modeling framework to assess the IPCC A1B scenario projections for the Central Plains of the United States; forcings include increased precipitation variability, increased potential evaporation, and earlier growing season onset. These forcings are also evaluated by simulations of vegetation photosynthetic capacity to explore the seasonal characteristics of the vegetation carbon assimilation response for species at the Konza Prairie in North Central Kansas, USA. The climate change simulations show decreases in mean annual soil moisture and and carbon assimilation and increased variation in water and carbon fluxes during the growing season. Simulations of the vegetation response show increased variation at the species-level instead of at a larger class scale, with important heterogeneity in how individual species respond to climate forcings. Understanding the drivers and relationships behind these ecosystem responses is important for understanding the likely scale of climate change impacts and for exploring the mechanisms shaping growing season dynamics in grassland ecosystems.