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Dryland mechanisms could widely control ecosystem functioning in a drier and warmer world

July 25, 2022

Responses of terrestrial ecosystems to climate change have been explored in many regions worldwide. While continued drying and warming may alter process rates and deteriorate the state and performance of ecosystems, it could also lead to more fundamental changes in the mechanisms governing ecosystem functioning. Here we argue that climate change will induce unprecedented shifts in these mechanisms in historically wetter climatic zones, towards mechanisms currently prevalent in dry regions, which we refer to as ‘dryland mechanisms’. We discuss 12 dryland mechanisms affecting multiple processes of ecosystem functioning, including vegetation development, water flow, energy budget, carbon and nutrient cycling, plant production and organic matter decomposition. We then examine mostly rare examples of the operation of these mechanisms in non-dryland regions where they have been considered irrelevant at present. Current and future climate trends could force microclimatic conditions across thresholds and lead to the emergence of dryland mechanisms and their increasing control over ecosystem functioning in many biomes on Earth.

Publication Year 2022
Title Dryland mechanisms could widely control ecosystem functioning in a drier and warmer world
DOI 10.1038/s41559-022-01779-y
Authors José M Grünzweig, Hans J. De Boeck, Ana Rey, Maria J. Santos, Ori Adam, Michael Bahn, Jayne Belnap, Gaby Deckmyn, Stefan C Dekker, Omar Flores, Daniel Gliksman, David Helman, Kevin R. Hultine, Lingling Liu, Ehud Meron, Yaron Michael, Efrat Sheffer, Heather L. Throop, Omer Tzuk, Dan Yakir
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature Ecology & Evolution
Index ID 70233917
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center