Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECOLOGY, MANAGEMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF WEEDY AND INVASIVE PLANT SPECIES IN A CHANGING CLIMATE

Location: Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit

Title: Plant Community Dynamics in Managed and Natural Ecosystems

Authors
item Gross, K -
item Emery, S -
item Davis, Adam
item Smith, R -
item Robinson, T -

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: June 7, 2011
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Understanding of the relationship between species diversity and the ecosystem processes and services important in row-crop agriculture lags well behind our knowledge of the role of diversity in natural systems. Diversity is not typically a goal of North American row crop production systems, where considerable effort and resources are often devoted to reducing diversity (e.g. weeds and insect pests). Here, we summarize data from a number of studies that have been conducted at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research (KBS LTER) site on the ecological processes that regulate productivity, diversity and species composition in abandoned agricultural fields and the weed communities of annual row-crop ecosystems typical of the northern US corn belt. As part of this effort, we have also synthesized and provided context for the work at KBS with that conducted in other grassland ecosystems and the growing literature on applying ecologically-based management of weed communities. Specifically, we focus on the roles that local processes such as disturbance (particularly tillage) and nutrient addition (fertilizers) play in determining plant species diversity, composition and productivity in these communities. We also address the roles of other, less-explicitly examined but important factors such as the linkages between above-ground and below-ground communities, and how landscape factors and climate variability can influence plant community dynamics. Finally, we discuss how an understanding of these interacting processes might shape the future of sustainable agriculture, especially in the context of global climate change.

Technical Abstract: Despite considerable interest in how diversity may influence and support the ecosystem services and functioning of natural systems, considerably less is known about how diversity relates to and affects the ecosystem processes and services important in row-crop agriculture. Diversity is not typically a goal of row crop production systems, particularly in North America. In fact, considerable effort and resources are often devoted to reducing or eliminating diversity (weeds and insect pests in particular) within agricultural systems, as these sources of diversity reduce the primary service - crop yield - that is being managed for in agricultural systems. Here, we summarize data from a number of studies that have been conducted at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research (KBS LTER) site on the ecological processes that regulate productivity, diversity and species composition in successional old-fields and the weed communities of annual row-crop ecosystems typical of the US Upper-Midwest. As part of this effort, we have also synthesized and provided context for the work at KBS with that conducted in other grassland ecosystems and the growing literature on applying ecologically-based management of weed communities. Specifically, we focus on the roles that local processes such as disturbance (particularly tillage) and nutrient addition (fertilizers) play in determining plant species diversity, composition and productivity in these communities. We also address the roles of other, less-explicitly examined but important factors such as the linkages between above-ground and below-ground communities, how landscape factors and climate variability can influence plant community dynamics. Finally, we discuss how an understanding of these interacting processes might shape the future of sustainable agriculture, especially in the context of global climate change.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page