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Desert grasslands, which are very sensitive to external drivers like climate change, are areas affected by rapid land degradation processes. In many regions of the world the common form of land degradation involves the rapid encroachment of woody plants into desert grasslands. This process, thought to be irreversible and sustained by biophysical feedbacks of global desertification, results in the heterogeneous distribution of vegetation and soil resources. Most of these shrub-grass transition systems at the desert margins are prone to disturbances such as fires, which affect the interactions between ecological, hydrological, and land surface processes. Here we investigate the effect of prescribed fires on the landscape...
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The cold deserts of the Colorado Plateau contain numerous geologically and geochemically distinct sedimentary bedrock types. In the area near Canyonlands National Park in Southeastern Utah, geochemical variation in geologic substrates is related to the depositional environment with higher concentrations of Fe, Al, P, K, and Mg in sediments deposited in alluvial or marine environments and lower concentrations in bedrock derived from eolian sand dunes. Availability of soil nutrients to vegetation is also controlled by the formation of secondary minerals, particularly for P and Ca availability, which, in some geologic settings, appears closely related to variation of CaCO3 and Ca-phosphates in soils. However, the results...
Soils play a key role in the global cycling of carbon (C), storing organic C, and releasing CO2 to the atmosphere. Although a large number of studies have focused on the CO2 flux at the soil–air interface, relatively few studies have examined the rates of CO2 production in individual layers of a soil profile. Deeper soil horizons often have high concentrations of CO2 in the soil air, but the sources of this CO2 and the spatiotemporal dynamics of CO2 production throughout the soil profile are poorly understood. We studied CO2 dynamics in six soil profiles arrayed across a grassland hillslope in coastal southern California. Gas probes were installed in each profile and gas samples were collected weekly or biweekly...
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Climate change may affect ecosystem functioning through increased temperatures or changes in precipitation patterns. Temperature and water availability are important drivers for ecosystem processes such as photosynthesis, carbon translocation, and organic matter decomposition. These climate changes may affect the supply of carbon and energy to the soil microbial population and subsequently alter decomposition and mineralization, important ecosystem processes in carbon and nutrient cycling. In this study, carried out within the cross-European research project CLIMOOR, the effect of climate change, resulting from imposed manipulations, on carbon dynamics in shrubland ecosystems was examined. We performed a 14C-labeling...
The cold deserts of the Colorado Plateau contain numerous geologically and geochemically distinct sedimentary bedrock types. In the area near Canyonlands National Park in Southeastern Utah, geochemical variation in geologic substrates is related to the depositional environment with higher concentrations of Fe, Al, P, K, and Mg in sediments deposited in alluvial or marine environments and lower concentrations in bedrock derived from eolian sand dunes. Availability of soil nutrients to vegetation is also controlled by the formation of secondary minerals, particularly for P and Ca availability, which, in some geologic settings, appears closely related to variation of CaCO3 and Ca-phosphates in soils. However, the results...
Although field studies have demonstrated an ecosystem-specific effect of experimental atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition on litter decomposition, a mechanistic understanding of how ligninolytic microbial communities respond to atmospheric deposition is lacking. Because high levels of inorganic N suppress lignin decomposition by some basidiomycetes, it is plausible that the abundance and activity of these key microorganisms underlies differential ecosystem responses of decomposition to atmospheric N deposition. We hypothesize that: (a) atmospheric N deposition will cause an ecosystem-specific reduction in basidiomycete activity and abundance with greatest decreases in ecosystems with lignin-rich forest litter and...
We integrated soil models with an established ecosystem process model (SIPNET, simplified photosynthesis and evapotranspiration model) to investigate the influence of soil processes on modelled values of soil CO2 fluxes (RSoil). Model parameters were determined from literature values and a data assimilation routine that used a 7-year record of the net ecosystem exchange of CO2 and environmental variables collected at a high-elevation subalpine forest (the Niwot Ridge AmeriFlux site). These soil models were subsequently evaluated in how they estimated the seasonal contribution of RSoil to total ecosystem respiration (TER) and the seasonal contribution of root respiration (RRoot) to RSoil. Additionally, these soil...
Early succession aspen and late succession conifer forests have different architecture and physiology affecting hydrologic transfer processes. An evaluation of water pools and fluxes was used to determine differences in the hydrologic dynamics between stands of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and associated stands of mixed conifer consisting of white fir (Abies concolor), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii). In 2005 and 2006, measurements of snow water accumulation, snow ablation (melt), soil water content, snowpack sublimation, and evapotranspiration (ET) were measured in adjacent aspen and conifer stands. Peak snow water equivalent (SWE) averaged 34–44% higher in...
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We used field studies and imaging spectroscopy to investigate the effect of grazing on vegetation cover in historically grazed and ungrazed high-mesa rangelands of the Grand Staircase?Escalante National Monument, Utah, USA. Airborne hyperspectral remote sensing data coupled with spectral mixture analysis uncovered subtle variations in the key biogeophysical properties of these rangelands: the fractional surface cover of photosynthetic vegetation (PV), nonphotosynthetic vegetation (NPV), and bare soil. The results show that a high-mesa area with long-term grazing management had significantly higher PV (26.3%), lower NPV (54.5%), and lower bare soil (17.2%) cover fractions in comparison to historically ungrazed high-mesa...
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Predicted changes in climate may affect key soil processes such as respiration and net nitrogen (N) mineralization and thus key ecosystem functions such as carbon (C) storage and nutrient availability. To identify the sensitivity of shrubland soils to predicted climate changes, we have carried out experimental manipulations involving ecosystem warming and prolonged summer drought in ericaceous shrublands across a European climate gradient. We used retractable covers to create artificial nighttime warming and prolonged summer drought to 20-m 2 experimental plots. Combining the data from across the environmental gradient with the results from the manipulation experiments provides evidence for strong climate controls...
In this study, we investigate changes in ecosystem structure that occur over a gradient of land-degradation in the southwestern USA, where shrubs are encroaching into native grassland. We evaluate a conceptual model which posits that the development of biotic and abiotic structural connectivity is due to ecogeomorphic feedbacks. Three hypotheses are evaluated: 1. Over the shrub-encroachment gradient, the difference in soil properties under each surface-cover type will change non-linearly, becoming increasingly different; 2. There will be a reduction in vegetation cover and an increase in vegetation-patch size that is concurrent with an increase in the spatial heterogeneity of soil properties over the shrub-encroachment...
Many biological, hydrological, and geological processes are interactively linked in ecosystems. These ecological phenomena normally vary within bounded ranges, but rapid, nonlinear changes to markedly different conditions can be triggered by even small differences if threshold values are exceeded. Intrinsic and extrinsic ecological thresholds can lead to effects that cascade among systems, precluding accurate modeling and prediction of system response to climate change. Ten case studies from North America illustrate how changes in climate can lead to rapid, threshold-type responses within ecological communities; the case studies also highlight the role of human activities that alter the rate or direction of system...
The fate of carbon (C) in organisms, food webs, and ecosystems is to a major extent regulated by mass-balance principles and the availability of other key nutrient elements. In relative terms, nutrient limitation implies excess C, yet the fate of this C may be quite different in autotrophs and heterotrophs. For autotrophs nutrient limitation means less fixation of inorganic C or excretion of organic C, while for heterotrophs nutrient limitation means that more of ingested C will ??go to waste?? in the form of egestion or respiration. There is in general a mismatch between autotrophs and decomposers that have flexible but generally high C:element ratios, and consumers that have lower C:element ratios and tighter...
In order to study the likely effects of global warming on future ecosystems, a method for applying a heating treatment to open-field plant canopies (i.e. a temperature free-air controlled enhancement (T-FACE) system) is needed which will warm vegetation as expected by the future climate. One method which shows promise is infrared heating, but a theory of operation is needed for predicting the performance of infrared heaters. Therefore, a theoretical equation was derived to predict the thermal radiation power required to warm a plant canopy per degree rise in temperature per unit of heated land area. Another equation was derived to predict the thermal radiation efficiency of an incoloy rod infrared heater as a function...
We conducted a study to evaluate the relative importance of topography, grazing, the location of individual plants (microsite), and plant species in controlling the spatial variability of soil organic matter in shortgrass steppe ecosystems. We found that the largest spatial variation occurs in concert with topography and with microsite-scale heterogeneity, with relatively little spatial variability due to grazing or to plant species. Total soil C and N, coarse and fine particulate organic matter C and N, and potentially mineralizable C were significantly affected by topography, with higher levels in toeslope positions than in midslopes or summits. Soils beneath individual plants (Bouteloua gracilis and Opuntia polyacantha)...
Although field studies have demonstrated an ecosystem-specific effect of experimental atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition on litter decomposition, a mechanistic understanding of how ligninolytic microbial communities respond to atmospheric deposition is lacking. Because high levels of inorganic N suppress lignin decomposition by some basidiomycetes, it is plausible that the abundance and activity of these key microorganisms underlies differential ecosystem responses of decomposition to atmospheric N deposition. We hypothesize that: (a) atmospheric N deposition will cause an ecosystem-specific reduction in basidiomycete activity and abundance with greatest decreases in ecosystems with lignin-rich forest litter and...
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Dust deposition in the Rocky Mountains may be an important biogeochemical flux from upwind ecosystems. Seasonal (winter/spring) dust mass fluxes to the San Juan Mountains during the period from 2004 to 2008 ranged from 5 to 10 g m?2, with individual deposition events reaching as high as 2 g m?2. Dust deposited in the San Juan Mountains was primarily composed of silt- and clay-sized particles, indicating a regional source area. The concentrations of most major and minor elements in this dust were similar to or less than average upper continental crustal concentrations, whereas trace element concentrations were often enriched. In particular, dust collected from the San Juan Mountain snowpack was characterized by enrichments...
Although field studies have demonstrated an ecosystem-specific effect of experimental atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition on litter decomposition, a mechanistic understanding of how ligninolytic microbial communities respond to atmospheric deposition is lacking. Because high levels of inorganic N suppress lignin decomposition by some basidiomycetes, it is plausible that the abundance and activity of these key microorganisms underlies differential ecosystem responses of decomposition to atmospheric N deposition. We hypothesize that: (a) atmospheric N deposition will cause an ecosystem-specific reduction in basidiomycete activity and abundance with greatest decreases in ecosystems with lignin-rich forest litter and...
In ecology textbooks prior to the 1970s, Aldo Leopold's classic story of predator control, over-population of deer, and habitat degradation on the Kaibab Plateau during the 1920s epitomized predator regulation of herbivore populations. However, the story disappeared from texts in the late 20th century after several papers noted uncertainties in estimations of the deer population and provided alternative explanations. We re-examined the case study by determining the age structure of aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) on the plateau. Aspen comprises the majority of deer browse in the summer, and the absence of a normal cohort of aspen from the 1920s would indicate deer over-population. The number of aspen (at 1.4...
Decline of riparian forests has been attributed to hydrologic modifications to river flows. However, little is known about the physiological and structural adjustments of riparian forests subject to modified flow regimes, and the potential for forest restoration using historic flow regimes is poorly understood. In this paired river study, we compared hydrology, water relations, and forest structure in cottonwood-dominated floodplains of the regulated Green River to those of the unregulated Yampa River. We measured floodplain groundwater levels, soil water availability, cottonwood xylem pressure (Ψxp), and leaf-level stomatal conductance (gs) to assess current impacts of river regulation on the water status of adult...


map background search result map search result map Climate Change Affects Carbon Allocation to the Soil in Shrublands Contemporary geochemical composition and flux of aeolian dust to the San Juan Mountains, Colorado, United States Controls of Bedrock Geochemistry on Soil and Plant Nutrients in Southeastern Utah The Response of Soil Processes to Climate Change: Results from Manipulation Studies of Shrublands Across an Environmental Gradient Changes in Vegetation Structure after Long-term Grazing in Pinyon-Juniper Ecosystems: Integrating Imaging Spectroscopy and Field Studies Contemporary geochemical composition and flux of aeolian dust to the San Juan Mountains, Colorado, United States Controls of Bedrock Geochemistry on Soil and Plant Nutrients in Southeastern Utah Changes in Vegetation Structure after Long-term Grazing in Pinyon-Juniper Ecosystems: Integrating Imaging Spectroscopy and Field Studies Climate Change Affects Carbon Allocation to the Soil in Shrublands The Response of Soil Processes to Climate Change: Results from Manipulation Studies of Shrublands Across an Environmental Gradient