Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

In grasslands, longer spring growing season offsets higher summer temperatures

01.03.2016

North American grasslands face mixed bag of climate change effects

Grasslands across North America will face higher summer temperatures and widespread drought by the end of the century, according to a new study.


Kendall Grassland in southeastern Arizona is one of many sites in the research project.

Credit: R.L. Scott, USDA-ARS

But those negative effects in vegetation growth will be largely offset, the research predicts, by an earlier start to the spring growing season and warmer winter temperatures.

Led by ecologists Andrew Richardson and Koen Hufkens of Harvard University, a team of researchers developed a detailed model that enables predictions of how grasslands from Canada to Mexico will react to climate change.

The model is described in a paper published today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

New insights into climate change effects on grasslands

"This research brings new insights into predicting future climate-driven changes in grasslands," says Elizabeth Blood, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research. "The results show that annual grassland cover and productivity will increase despite drought-induced reductions in summer productivity and cover."

Ultimately the growing season gets split into two parts, Hufkens said. "You have an earlier spring flush of vegetation, followed by a summer depression where the vegetation withers, then at the end of the season, you see the vegetation rebound again."

Adds Richardson, "The good news is that total grassland productivity is not going to decline, at least for most of the region. But the bad news is that we're going to have this new seasonality that is outside of current practices for rangeland management -- and how to adapt to that is unknown."

To understand the effects of climate change on grasslands, the scientists created a model of the hydrology and vegetation of the region. They used data from the PhenoCam Network, a collection of some 250 Internet-connected cameras that capture images of local vegetation conditions every half-hour.

Using 14 sites that represent a variety of climates, the biologists ran the model against a metric of "greenness" to ensure that it could reproduce results in line with real-world observations.

"These were sites from across North America, from Canada to New Mexico and from California to Illinois," Richardson said. "We used the greenness of the vegetation as a proxy for the activity of that vegetation. We were then able to run the model into the future."

The region was divided into thousands of 10 square-kilometer blocks, allowing researchers to spot important differences in the response to climate change.

"That allows us to look at how patterns emerge in different areas," Hufkens said.

Importantly, Richardson said, the model also uses a daily rather than monthly time step.

Changing seasonal patterns bring challenges

"Grasslands are different than forests in that they respond very quickly to moisture pulses," said Richardson. "This model takes advantage of that -- by running at a daily time scale, it can better represent changing patterns."

The changing conditions could present challenges for farmers, ranchers and others who rely on predictable seasonal changes to manage the landscape.

"These shifting seasons will present new tests for management practices," Richardson cautioned.

For grasslands, the increases in production and losses due to higher summer temperatures largely balance out, Hufkens said.

Although the results suggest that climate change may have some positive effects, both Hufkens and Richardson warned that they are the result of a delicate balance.

"It's getting more arid and that's causing more intense summer droughts, but because of a changing seasonality, vegetation growth is shifting," said Richardson.

The negative effects of drought on ecosystem production can be offset, he believes. "But that raises new questions about appropriate management responses," he said.

"Relying on this increase in productivity, or expecting that climate change will have long-term benefits because of results like this, is like playing the lottery -- the odds are not very good."

Media Contact

Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734

 @NSF

http://www.nsf.gov 

Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Cascading use is also beneficial for wood
11.12.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>