The importance of timing of precipitation for grassland productivity

TitleThe importance of timing of precipitation for grassland productivity
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCraine, JM
JournalPlant Ecology
Pagination1085 -1089
Accession NumberKNZ001552
Keywordscritical climate period, Grasslands, Konza Prairie, Precipitation, Primary productivity, Timing

Future climate change is likely to involve changes in the amount and intensity of precipitation, but also its timing during the year. To better understand how the timing of precipitation impacts plant productivity, a 27-year dataset on grass productivity for a mesic North American grassland was analyzed. Along with other climate parameters, the ability of the average date precipitation fell during different climate periods to explain grass productivity was tested. Across the 27 years, grass productivity was greater in years with more precipitation between April 15 and August 2. After accounting for differences in the total amount of precipitation during this time period, in years when precipitation between May 9 and August 27 fell later, measured grass productivity was less. Variation among years in precipitation timing was of similar importance as temperatures during critical climate periods and about 40 % of the importance of the total amount of precipitation. In all, although the mechanisms generating these responses are uncertain, precipitation timing within a growing season has substantial effects on productivity.