Influence of climate variability on plant production and N-mineralization in Central US grasslands

TitleInfluence of climate variability on plant production and N-mineralization in Central US grasslands
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsBarrett, JE, McCulley, RL, Lane, DR, Burke, IC, Lauenroth, WK
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Pagination383 -394
Accession NumberKNZ00841
KeywordsAnnual variation, ANPP, Central Grasslands region, Environmental gradient, IGBP Transect, Mineralization, Nitrogen flux, Seasonal variation

We assessed the influence of annual and seasonal climate variability over soil organic matter (SOM), above-ground net primary production (ANPP) and in situ net nitrogen (N) mineralization in a regional field study across the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) North American mid-latitude transect (Koch et al. 1995). We hypothesized that while trends in SOM are strongly correlated with mean climatic parameters, ANPP and net N-mineralization are more strongly influenced by annual and seasonal climate because they are dynamic processes sensitive to short-term variation in temperature and water availability. Seasonal and monthly deviations from long-term climatic means, particularly precipitation, were greatest at the semi-arid end of the transect. ANPP is sensitive to this climatic variability, but is also strongly correlated with mean annual climate parameters. In situ net N-mineralization and nitrification were weakly influenced by soil water content and temperature during the incubation and were less sensitive to seasonal climatic variables than ANPP, probably because microbial transformations of N in the soil are mediated over even finer temporal scales. We found no relationship between ANPP and in situ net N-mineralization. These results suggests that methods used to estimate in situ net N-mineralization are inadequate to represent N-availability across gradients where microbial biomass, N-immobilization or competition among plants and microbes vary.