Climate variability at multiple time scales: implications for productivity in tallgrass prairie

TitleClimate variability at multiple time scales: implications for productivity in tallgrass prairie
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsGoodin, DG, Fay, PA, McHugh, MJ
Pagination312 -316
PublisherAmerican Meteorological Society
Accession NumberKNZ00934

Climate is a fundamental driver of biomass productivity in ecosystems. This is especially true for grassland systems, which display greater variability in net primary productivity in response to climate fluctuation than forest, desert, or arctic/alpine systems. Although basic climate/productivity relationships have been studied over shorter time scales, the effect of longer-term climate processes such as El NiƱo/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), solar activity cycles, and other quasiperiodic climatic patterns on grassland systems is largely unknown, due to the lack of long term productivity data sets to evaluate against climate data. Here, we examine how variability in temperature and rainfall at a tallgrass prairie site (Konza Prairie Biological Station, KPBS) is related to various teleconnection indices and how these indices may relate to patterns of above ground net primary productivity (ANPP). We use two data sets, a 20 year ANPP data set collected at KPBS and a 108 year precipitation and temperature record (1891-1999) from nearby Manhattan, KS. Patterns of variation are analyzed using period-spectrum analysis and correlation of climate variables to ANPP. Results show that at shorter time scales (one year or less), productivity is influenced by magnitude of precipitation and temperature, but also by the seasonal timing of precipitation events and heat accumulation. Long-term precipitation was influenced on the decadal time scale by the NAO and North Pacific (NP) circulation patterns. Long-term temperature patterns showed strongest periodicities at intradecadal time scales (" 5- 8 years), and correlated most strongly with ENSO indices. Although speculative, our results suggest that the influence of atmospheric teleconnection patterns (and their resulting weather patterns) on tallgrass productivity is indirect. Teleconnection patterns interact to influence both the magnitude and seasonal distribution of temperature and precipitation. The interplay of these variations in weather appears to exert significant control over tallgrass ANPP.