, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 489–502 | Cite as

Tracking Soil Temperature and Moisture in a Multi-Factor Climate Experiment in Temperate Grassland: Do Climate Manipulation Methods Produce their Intended Effects?

  • Cameron N. CarlyleEmail author
  • Lauchlan H. Fraser
  • Roy Turkington


Passive open-top chambers (OTCs) and rainout shelters (RSs) have been used for over two decades to manipulate temperature and water availability in experiments on plant communities. These types of manipulations have been independently evaluated; however, as experiments become more complex and multiple factors are evaluated the potential for unknown or undesirable treatment effects increases. We present the effects of temperature manipulations (with OTCs), water manipulations (with RSs and water additions), and a clipping treatment, implemented in a fully factorial design, on soil moisture and temperature over 2 years in a temperate grassland. Temperature was increased 0.2°C by OTCs. Soil volumetric water content was reduced 3% by RSs and increased 2% by watering. However, clipping vegetation, treatment interactions, and weather conditions also affected soil temperature and moisture. For example, in OTCs RSs increased the temperature an additional 0.4°C, watering lowered it 0.4°C, and clipping raised temperature 2°C. Similarly, changes in soil moisture due to the RSs decreased VWC by 3% and increased 1% by clipping whereas soil moisture due to watering was reduced 1% by the OTCs and clipping. We also found that OTCs are more effective at raising temperatures on cooler days when soil temperatures are below 16.3°C. Our results suggest that all treatment types generally affect soil variables in predicable ways, but use of such devices should be adopted with caution, as they do not act independently, or exclusively, on the target variables.


open-top chamber rainout shelter climate change soil volumetric water content clipping disturbance 



The research was supported with an NSERC Discovery Grant, a Canadian Foundation for Innovation Grant, and a BC Forest Science Program Grant to LHF. CNC was supported with an NSERC IPS in collaboration with the Grasslands Conservation Council of BC, a UBC Graduate Fellowship and a Pacific Century scholarship from the government of British Columbia. Comments from Doug Frank and anonymous reviewers improved this manuscript. We thank Brandy Ludwig, Amber Greenall, Montana Burgess, Eleanor Bassett, Lisa DeSandoli, Amy Bitz, Jessica Gosling, and Anna-Marie Pellet who provided assistance maintaining the experiment. Don Thompson, at Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, and the BC Ministry of Environment helped with logistics and allowed site access.


  1. Bremer DJ, Ham JM, Owensby CE. 1996. Effect of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and open-top chambers on transpiration in a tallgrass prairie. J Environ Qual 25:691–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bremer DJ, Ham JM, Owensby CE, Knapp AK. 1998. Response of soil respiration to clipping and grazing in a tallgrass prairie. J Environ Qual 27:1539–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown JR, Archer S. 1999. Shrub invasion of grassland: recruitment is continuous and not regulated by herbaceous biomass or density. Ecology 80:2385–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Campbell CS. 2002. Calibrating ECH2O soil moisture probes. Application note SMR110. Pullman, WA: Decagon Devices Inc.Google Scholar
  5. Coulson S, Hodkinson ID, Strathdee A, Bale JS, Block W, Worland MR, Webb NR. 1993. Simulated climate change: the interaction between vegetation type and microhabitat temperatures at Ny Ålesund, Svalbard. Polar Biol 13:67–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dunne JA, Saleska SR, Fischer ML, Harte J. 2004. Integrating experimental and gradient methods in ecological climate change research. Ecology 85:904–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Environment Canada (2009) National Climate Data and Information archive. Accessed 6 Oct, 2009.
  8. Fay PA, Carlisle JD, Knapp AK, Blair JM, Collins SL. 2000. Altering rainfall timing and quantity in a mesic grassland ecosystem: design and performance of rainfall manipulation shelters. Ecosystems 3:308–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fraser LH, Greenall A, Carlyle CN, Turkington R, Ross Friedman C. 2009. Adaptive phenotypic plasticity of Pseudoroegneria spicata: response of stomatal density, leaf area and biomass to changes in water supply and increased temperature. Ann Bot 103:769–75.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gedan KB, Bertness MD. 2009. Experimental warming causes rapid loss of plant diversity in New England salt marshes. Ecol Lett 12:842–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Grime JP, Brown VK, Thompson K, Masters GJ, Hillier SH, Clarke IP, Askew AP, Corker D, Kielty JP. 2000. The response of two contrasting limestone grasslands to simulated climate change. Science 289:762–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Grime JP. 2001. Plant strategies, vegetation processes, and ecosystem properties. 2nd edn. Chichester: Wiley. p 417.Google Scholar
  13. Havstad KM, Herrick J, Tseelei EA. 2008. Mongolia’s rangelands: is livestock production the key to the future? Front Ecol Environ 6:386–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Henry GHR, Molau U. 1997. Tundra plants and climate change: the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX). Glob Change Biol 3:1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hollister RD, Webber PJ. 2000. Biotic validation of small open-top chambers in a tundra ecosystem. Glob Change Biol 6:835–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hudson JMG, Henry GHR. 2009. Increased plant biomass in a High Arctic heath community from 1981 to 2008. Ecology 90:2657–63.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2007. Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Geneva, Switzerland: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.Google Scholar
  18. Johnston A, Dormaar JF, Smoliak S. 1971. Long-term grazing effects on fescue grassland soils. J Range Manag 24:185–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Klanderud K, Totland Ø. 2005. Simulated climate change altered dominance hierarchies and diversity of an alpine biodiversity hotspot. Ecology 86:2047–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Klein JA, Harte J, Zhao XQ. 2004. Experimental warming causes large and rapid species loss, dampened by simulated grazing, on the Tibetan Plateau. Ecol Lett 7:1170–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Klein JA, Harte J, Zhao XQ. 2005. Dynamic and complex microclimate response to warming and grazing manipulations. Glob Change Biol 11:1440–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Knapp AK, Fay PA, Blair JM, Collins SL, Smith MD, Carlisle JD, Harper CW, Danner BT, Lett MS, McCarron JK. 2002. Rainfall variability, carbon cycling, and plant species diversity in a mesic grassland. Science 298:2202–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Köchy M, Wilson D. 2004. Semiarid grassland responses to short-term variation in water availability. Plant Ecol 174:197–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Marion GM, Henry GHR, Freckman DW, Johnstone J, Jones G, Jones MH, Lévesque E, Molau U, Mølgaard P, Parsons AN, Svoboda J, Virginia RA. 1997. Open-top designs for manipulating field temperature in high-latitude ecosystems. Glob Change Biol 3:20–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Norby RJ, Edwards NT, Riggs JS, Abner CH, Wullschleger SD, Gunderson CA. 1997. Temperature-controlled open-top chambers for global change research. Glob Change Biol 3:259–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Novoplansky A, Goldberg DE. 2001. Effects of water pulsing on individual performance and competitive hierarchies in plants. J Veg Sci 12:199–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Parmesan C, Yohe G. 2003. A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature 421:37–42.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. R Development Core Team. 2008. R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.Google Scholar
  29. Root TL, Price JT, Hall KR, Schneider SH, Rosenzweig C, Pounds JA. 2003. Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants. Nature 421:57–60.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rustad LE, Campbell JL, Marion GM, Norby RJ, Mitchell MJ, Hartley AE, Cornelissen JHC, Gurevitch J, WS GCTE-NE. 2001. A meta-analysis of the response of soil respiration, net nitrogen mineralization, and aboveground plant growth to experimental ecosystem warming. Oecologia 126:543–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shaw MR, Zavaleta ES, Chiariello NR, Cleland EE, Mooney HA, Field CB. 2002. Grassland responses to global environmental changes suppressed by elevated CO2. Science 298:1987–90.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Svejcar T, Angell R, Miller R. 1999. Fixed location rain shelters for studying precipitation effects on rangelands. J Arid Environ 42:187–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. van Ryswyk AL, Mclean A, Marchand LS. 1966. The climate, native vegetation and soils of some grasslands at different elevations in British Columbia. Can J Plant Sci 46:35–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Vare H, Ohtonen R, Mikkola K. 1996. The effect and extent of heavy grazing by reindeer in oligotrophic pine heaths in Northeastern Fennoscandia. Ecography 19:245–53.Google Scholar
  35. Wahren CHA, Walker MD, Bret-Harte MS. 2005. Vegetation responses in Alaskan arctic tundra after 8 years of a summer warming and winter snow manipulation experiment. Glob Change Biol 11:537–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Walther G, Post E, Convey P, Menzel A, Parmesan C, Beebee TJC, Fromentin J, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Bairlein F. 2002. Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416:389–95.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Walker MD, Wahren CH, Hollister RD, Henry GHR, Ahlquist LE, Alatalo JM, Bret-Harte MS, Calef MP, Callaghan TV, Carroll AB, Epstein HE, Jönsdöttir IS, Klein JA, Magnusson B, Molau U, Oberbauer SF, Rewa SP, Robinson CH, Shaver GR, Suding KN, Thompson CC, Tolvanen A, Totland O, Turner PL, Tweedie CE, Webber PJ, Wookey PA. 2006. Plant community responses to experimental warming across the tundra biome. Proc Natl Acad Sci 103:1342–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Whitehead D, Hogan KP, Rogers GND, Byers JN, Hunt JE, McSeveny TM, Hollinger DY, Dungan RJ, Earl WB, Bourke MP. 1995. Performance of large open-top chambers for long-term field investigations of tree response to elevated carbon dioxide concentration. J Biogeography 22:307–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Yahdjian L, Sala OE. 2002. A rainout shelter design for intercepting different amounts of rainfall. Oecologia 133:95–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cameron N. Carlyle
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Lauchlan H. Fraser
    • 2
  • Roy Turkington
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research CentreUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resource SciencesThompson Rivers UniversityKamloopsCanada

Personalised recommendations