Advertisement

Plant Ecology

, Volume 214, Issue 8, pp 1085–1089 | Cite as

The importance of precipitation timing for grassland productivity

  • Joseph M. CraineEmail author
Article

Abstract

Future climate change is likely to involve changes in the amount and intensity of precipitation, but also its timing during the year. To better understand how the timing of precipitation impacts plant productivity, a 27-year dataset on grass productivity for a mesic North American grassland was analyzed. Along with other climate parameters, the ability of the average date precipitation fell during different climate periods to explain grass productivity was tested. Across the 27 years, grass productivity was greater in years with more precipitation between April 15 and August 2. After accounting for differences in the total amount of precipitation during this time period, in years when precipitation between May 9 and August 27 fell later, measured grass productivity was less. Variation among years in precipitation timing was of similar importance as temperatures during critical climate periods and about 40 % of the importance of the total amount of precipitation. In all, although the mechanisms generating these responses are uncertain, precipitation timing within a growing season has substantial effects on productivity.

Keywords

Grasslands Konza Prairie Precipitation Timing Primary productivity Critical climate period 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Collection of the productivity and climate data was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation in support of the Konza Long-Term Ecological Research program. Jesse Nippert and anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments to earlier manuscripts and Troy Ocheltree inspiration for the linear density plots of the critical climate periods in Fig. 1.

References

  1. Christensen JH, Hewitson B, Busuioc A, Chen A, Gao X, Held I, Jones R, Kolli RK, Kwon W-T, Laprise R, Rueda VM, Mearns L, Menéndez CG, Räisänen J, Rinke A, Sarr A, Whetton P (2007) Regional climate projections. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M and Miller HL (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  2. Craine JM, Joern A, Towne EG, Hamilton RG (2009) Consequences of climate variability for the performance of bison in tallgrass prairie. Glob Change Biol 15:772–779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Craine JM, Nippert JB, Elmore AJ, Skibbe AM, Hutchinson SL, Brunsell NA (2012) Timing of climate variability and grassland productivity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109:3401–3405PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fay PA, Blair JM, Smith MD, Nippert JB, Carlisle JD, Knapp AK (2011) Relative effects of precipitation variability and warming on tallgrass prairie ecosystem function. Biogeosciences 8(10):3053–3068. doi: 10.5194/bg-8-3053-2011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Hoerling M, Hurrell J, Kumar A, Terray L, Eischeid J, Pegion P, Zhang T, Quan XW, Xu T (2011) On North American decadal climate for 2011–2020. J Clim 24(16):4519–4528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hsu JS, Powell J, Adler PB (2012) Sensitivity of mean annual primary production to precipitation. Glob Change Biol 18(7):2246–2255. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02687.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Nippert JB, Ocheltree TW, Skibbe AM, Kangas LC, Ham JM, Arnold KBS, Brunsell NA (2011) Linking plant growth responses across topographic gradients in tallgrass prairie. Oecologia 166:1131–1142. doi: 10.1007/s00442-011-1948-6 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Weltzin JF, Loik ME, Schwinning S, Williams DG, Fay PA, Haddad BM, Harte J, Huxman TE, Knapp AK, Lin GH, Pockman WT, Shaw MR, Small EE, Smith MD, Smith SD, Tissue DT, Zak JC (2003) Assessing the response of terrestrial ecosystems to potential changes in precipitation. Bioscience 53(10):941–952CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of BiologyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

Personalised recommendations