Plant and Soil

, Volume 288, Issue 1–2, pp 249–261 | Cite as

How do climate warming and plant species richness affect water use in experimental grasslands?

  • H. J. De Boeck
  • C. M. H. M. Lemmens
  • H. Bossuyt
  • S. Malchair
  • M. Carnol
  • R. Merckx
  • I. Nijs
  • R. Ceulemans
Original Paper

Abstract

Climate warming and plant species richness loss have been the subject of numerous experiments, but studies on their combined impact are lacking. Here we studied how both warming and species richness loss affect water use in grasslands, while identifying interactions between these global changes. Experimental ecosystems containing one, three or nine grassland species from three functional groups were grown in 12 sunlit, climate-controlled chambers (2.25 m2 ground area) in Wilrijk, Belgium. Half of these chambers were exposed to ambient air temperatures (unheated), while the other half were warmed by 3°C (heated). Equal amounts of water were added to heated and unheated communities, so that warming would imply drier soils if evapotranspiration (ET) was higher. After an initial ET increase in response to warming, stomatal regulation and lower above-ground productivity resulted in ET values comparable with those recorded in the unheated communities. As a result of the decreased biomass production, water use efficiency (WUE) was reduced by warming. Higher complementarity and the improved competitive success of water-efficient species in mixtures led to an increased WUE in multi-species communities as compared to monocultures, regardless of the induced warming. However, since the WUE of individual species was affected in different ways by higher temperatures, compositional changes in mixtures seem likely under climatic change due to shifts in competitiveness. In conclusion, while increased complementarity and selection of water-efficient species ensured more efficient water use in mixtures than monocultures, global warming will likely decrease this WUE, and this may be most pronounced in species-rich communities.

Keywords

Evapotranspiration Global warming Grassland species Species richness Water use efficiency 

Abbreviations

ANCOVA

Analysis of co-variance

B

Biomass

ET

Evapotranspiration

GLM

General linear model

h (subscript)

heated

mix (subscript)

mixture

mono (subscript)

monoculture

res (subscript)

residual

S

Species richness

SWC

Soil water content

T

Temperature

u (subscript)

unheated

WUE

Water use efficiency

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the Fund for Scientific Research—Flanders (Belgium) as project “Effects of biodiversity loss and climate warming on carbon sequestration mechanisms in terrestrial ecosystems”, contract # G.0434.03N. H.J. De Boeck holds a grant from the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation through Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT-Vlaanderen). H. Bossuyt is a post-doctoral research associate of the Fund for Scientific Research - Flanders. We thank B. Gielen for help with harvesting above-ground biomass, and F. Kockelbergh for technical assistance.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. J. De Boeck
    • 1
  • C. M. H. M. Lemmens
    • 1
  • H. Bossuyt
    • 2
  • S. Malchair
    • 3
  • M. Carnol
    • 3
  • R. Merckx
    • 2
  • I. Nijs
    • 1
  • R. Ceulemans
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Group of Plant and Vegetation Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of Antwerp (Campus Drie Eiken)WilrijkBelgium
  2. 2.Division Soil and Water Management, Faculty of Bioscience EngineeringKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuven/HeverleeBelgium
  3. 3.Laboratory of Plant and Microbial Ecology, Institute of Plant Biology B22University of LiègeLiègeBelgium

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