Experimental warming in a dryland community reduced plant photosynthesis and soil CO2 efflux although the relationship between the fluxes remained unchanged
1. Drylands represent our planet's largest terrestrial biome and, due to their extensive area, maintain large stocks of carbon (C). Accordingly, understanding how dryland C cycling will respond to climate change is imperative for accurately forecasting global C cycling and future climate. However, it remains difficult to predict how increased temperature will affect dryland C cycling, as substantial uncertainties surround the potential responses of the two main C fluxes: plant photosynthesis and soil CO2 efflux. In addition to a need for an improved understanding of climate effects on individual dryland C fluxes, there is also notable uncertainty regarding how climate change may influence the relationship between these fluxes.
2. To address this important knowledge gap, we measured a growing season's in situphotosynthesis, plant biomass accumulation, and soil CO2 efflux of mature Achnatherum hymenoides (a common and ecologically important C3 bunchgrass growing throughout western North America) exposed to ambient or elevated temperature (+2°C above ambient, warmed via infrared lamps) for three years.
3. The 2°C increase in temperature caused a significant reduction in photosynthesis, plant growth, and soil CO2 efflux. Of important note, photosynthesis and soil respiration appeared tightly coupled and the relationship between these fluxes was not altered by the elevated temperature treatment, suggesting C fixation's strong control of both above-ground and below-ground dryland C cycling. Leaf water use efficiency was substantially increased in the elevated temperature treatment compared to the control treatment.
4. Taken together, our results suggest notable declines in photosynthesis with relatively subtle warming, reveal strong coupling between above- and below-ground C fluxes in this dryland, and highlight temperature's strong effect on fundamental components of dryland C and water cycles.
|Experimental warming in a dryland community reduced plant photosynthesis and soil CO2 efflux although the relationship between the fluxes remained unchanged
|Timothy M. Wertin, Jayne Belnap, Sasha C. Reed
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Southwest Biological Science Center