Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Changing climate could alter meadows’ ecosystems

07.07.2010
Changing climate could affect the diversity of plants and animals, and we can get a glimpse of what this may look like by studying the effects of drought in a relatively pristine ecosystem, according to an Iowa State University researcher.

Diane Debinski has been studying the meadows in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of the Rocky Mountains since 1992. She has found that if the area's climate becomes drier as the earth's temperature climbs, it could lead to a change in the types of plants and animals that live there.

To study the potential effects of climate change, Debinski has been conducting large-scale, long-term, observational studies of the plant and insect communities in 55 montane (mountainous) meadows in the ecosystem.

Debinski studied six different types of montane meadows that ranged from dry (xeric) to wet (hydric).

"It was our aim to look at the same sites year after year," said Debinski. "We know that the world changes and ecological communities change over time, but not many people look at the same research sites for a decade or more. I wanted a data set to look at changes in the communities over the long term."

Debinski and her colleagues were able to measure the changes in the plant community from 1997 to 2007, which included an extended drought. Her research was recently published in the journal Ecology.

According to Debinski, the shrubs that grow in the drier meadows (such as sagebrush) increased, while flowering plants decreased in number. Shrubs from drier meadows do not provide as much food for animals as flowering plants that grow in wetter meadows.

This may result from the way the plants get water, Debinski said. Shrubs generally have deeper roots and can obtain water from deeper in the soils. Flowering plants generally get water from nearer the surface. These types of changes could have important implications for wildlife in the montane meadows Debinski studied.

"In these meadows, as water became more scarce, that means less moisture for the plants," she said. "The flowering plants don't grow as well and therefore don't provide as much food to the animals. These types of changes in the plants could affect populations of elk, bison, as well as many other smaller animals, including insects."

Since there were fewer flowering plants in the drier years, pollinators such as butterflies were also becoming scarce in several of the plots Debinski and her colleagues studied. Two species of butterflies that live in the wetter meadows actually disappeared from her sampling sites for a year, but were observed again in later years.

Debinski plans to publish the results of her butterfly research soon.

Because there are six types of meadows, from wet to dry, Debinski was also able to examine which meadow type was most vulnerable to change.

The results showed that medium-moisture meadows -- neither wet nor dry -- are in the biggest danger of change.

"If wet meadows get a little drier, they're still wet," she said. "If dry meadows get a little drier, they are still dry. But the meadows with a medium amount of wetness are the ones that may be changing most."

One aspect of the study that Debinski thinks gives the results even more credibility is the location of the experiment, high in the Rocky Mountains.

"It is important to know what sorts of changes are happening in a place where people don't have much of an impact," she said. "The results of other studies done in other places can blame changes on human impact. Not so much here."

More recently Debinski and her colleagues have added an experimental aspect to the research by using snow removal and warming chambers to assess plant and insect responses in these meadows. The experimental approach will allow them to quantify how specific changes in soil moisture and temperature affect the plants and insects.

Diane Debinski | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu
http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2010/jul/debinski

Further reports about: Changing Mountains Rocky Mountains butterfly research flowering plant shrubs

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>