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Projected climate and land use changes drive plant community composition in agricultural wetlands

July 1, 2020

Playa wetlands in the Great Plains, USA support a wide variety of plant species not found elsewhere in this agriculturally-dominated region due to the ephemeral presence of standing water and hydric soils within playas. If longer dry periods occur due to climate change or if changes in surrounding land use alter sediment accumulation rates and water storage capacity in playas, plant communities could experience decreased diversity, with lasting effects on ecosystem services provided by playas in the Great Plains and at a continental-level in North America. We quantified potential changes in playa wetland plant community composition associated with predicted changes in precipitation and land use in the Great Plains through the end of the 21st century. We conducted two six-month greenhouse experiments mimicking field conditions using intact mesocosms collected from playas in Nebraska and Texas. In the precipitation experiment, treatments derived from historical precipitation observations and three future moderate emissions (CMIP5 RCP4.5) downscaled climate projections were applied to mesocosms. For the land use experiment, treatments were simulated by nitrogen (N) applications to soil ranging from 0 to 100 mg-N L-1 with each precipitation event under historical rainfall patterns, representing increasing and decreasing area in agricultural use in playa watersheds. Plant communities tended to shift toward more native species under projected future climate conditions, but as N runoff increased, native species richness decreased. Agricultural land-use surrounding playas may have a greater effect on wetland plant communities than future alterations to hydrology based on climate change in the Great Plains; thus, efforts to reduce nutrient runoff into playas would likely mitigate loss in ecosystem function in the coming decades.

Publication Year 2020
Title Projected climate and land use changes drive plant community composition in agricultural wetlands
DOI 10.1016/j.envexpbot.2020.104039
Authors Rachel K. Owen, Elisabeth B. Webb, David A. Haukos, Keith W. Goyne
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental and Experimental Botany
Index ID 70228360
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta