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In arid/semi-arid ecosystems, biological resources, such as water, soil nutrients, and plant biomass, typically go through periods of high and low abundance. Short periods of high resource abundance are usually triggered by rainfall events, which, despite of the overall scarcity of rain, can saturate the resource demand of some biological processes for a time. This review develops the idea that there exists a hierarchy of soil moisture pulse events with a corresponding hierarchy of ecological responses, such that small pulses only trigger a small number of relatively minor ecological events, and larger pulses trigger a more inclusive set and some larger ecological events. This framework hinges on the observation...
The consequences of climate change for ecosystem structure and function remain largely unknown. Here, I examine the ability of climate variation to explain long-term changes in bird and plant populations, as well as trophic interactions in a high-elevation riparian system in central Arizona, USA, based on 20 years of study. Abundances of dominant deciduous trees have declined dramatically over the 20 years, correlated with a decline in overwinter snowfall. Snowfall can affect overwinter presence of elk, whose browsing can significantly impact deciduous tree abundance. Thus, climate may affect the plant community indirectly through effects on herbivores, but may also act directly by influencing water availability...