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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: GLOBAL CHANGE IN SEMI-ARID RANGELANDS: ECOSYSTEM RESPONSES AND MANAGEMENT ADAPTATIONS

Location: Rangeland Resources Research

Title: Time scales of biogeochemical and organismal responses to individual precipitation events

Authors
item Von Fischer, J -
item Angert, A -
item Augustine, David
item Brown, C -
item Dijkstra, Feike -
item Derner, Justin
item Hufbauer, R -
item Fierer, N -
item Milchunas, D -
item Moore, J -

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 15, 2010
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: In temperate grasslands, spatial and intra-annual variability in the activity of plants and microbes are structured by patterns in the precipitation regime. While the effects of total annual precipitation have been well-explored, the ecological dynamics associated with individual precipitation events have not. Rainfall events induce a short-term pulse of soil respiration that may or may not be followed by stimulation of plant photosynthetic activity and growth. Because the underlying heterotrophic and autotrophic responses are interactive, respond over unique timescales and are sensitive to precipitation magnitude, it remains difficult to predict the hydrologic effects on net CO2 exchange. To develop a better mechanistic understanding of these processes, we conducted a synthetic, multi-investigator experiment to characterize the ecosystem responses to rainfall events of different sizes. Our work was conducted on the Shortgrass Steppe (SGS) LTER site over 7 days in June 2009, using 1cm and 2cm rainfall events, with controls and each treatment replicated 5 times in 2m x 2m plots. Our observations revealed both expected responses of plant activity and soil respiration, and surprising patterns in microbial enzyme activity and soil fauna population densities. Coupled with observed dynamics in 15N partitioning and kinetics, our findings provide empirical timescales for the complex ecological interactions that underlie the ecosystem responses to rainfall events. These results can be used to inform a new generation of ecosystem simulation models to more explicitly consider the time lags and interactions of different functional groups.

Last Modified: 7/24/2014
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