Drought timing differentially affects above- and belowground productivity in a mesic grassland

TitleDrought timing differentially affects above- and belowground productivity in a mesic grassland
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsDenton, EM, Dietrich, JD, Smith, MD, Knapp, AK
JournalPlant Ecology
Pagination317 - 328
Accession NumberKNZ001802

Climate models forecast an intensification of the global hydrological cycle with droughts becoming more frequent and severe, and shifting to times when they have been historically uncommon. Droughts, or prolonged periods of precipitation deficiency, are characteristic of most temperate grasslands, yet few experiments have explored how variation in the seasonal timing of drought may impact ecosystem function. We investigated the response of above- and belowground net primary production (ANPP & BNPP) to altered drought timing in a mesic grassland in NE Kansas. Moderate drought treatments (25% reduction from the mean growing season precipitation [GSP]) were imposed by erecting rainout shelters in late spring (LSP), early summer (ESM), and mid-summer (MSM, n = 10 plots/treatment). These treatments were compared to two controls (long-term average GSP [LTA] and ambient GSP [AMB]) and a wet treatment (+30% of the long-term average GSP [WET]). We found that LSP drought did not significantly reduce ANPP relative to control plots while the ESM and MSM drought did despite equivalent reductions in soil moisture. In contrast, the WET treatment did not affect ANPP. Neither the WET nor the drought treatments altered BNPP as compared to the controls. Our results suggest that forecasts of ecosystem responses to climate change will be improved if both the seasonal timing of alterations in precipitation as well as differential responses of above- and belowground productivity to drought are incorporated into models.

Short TitlePlant Ecol