Matching Items (4)

Pervasive Drought Legacies in Forest Ecosystems and Their Implications for Carbon Cycle Models

Description

The impacts of climate extremes on terrestrial ecosystems are poorly understood but important for predicting carbon cycle feedbacks to climate change. Coupled climate–carbon cycle models typically assume that vegetation recovery

The impacts of climate extremes on terrestrial ecosystems are poorly understood but important for predicting carbon cycle feedbacks to climate change. Coupled climate–carbon cycle models typically assume that vegetation recovery from extreme drought is immediate and complete, which conflicts with the understanding of basic plant physiology. We examined the recovery of stem growth in trees after severe drought at 1338 forest sites across the globe, comprising 49,339 site-years, and compared the results with simulated recovery in climate-vegetation models. We found pervasive and substantial “legacy effects” of reduced growth and incomplete recovery for 1 to 4 years after severe drought. Legacy effects were most prevalent in dry ecosystems, among Pinaceae, and among species with low hydraulic safety margins. In contrast, limited or no legacy effects after drought were simulated by current climate-vegetation models. Our results highlight hysteresis in ecosystem-level carbon cycling and delayed recovery from climate extremes.

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Date Created
  • 2015-07-31

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Context-dependent niche variation and fitness consequences in California sea lions

Description

Niche variation among sexes and life stages within a population has been documented in many species, yet few studies have investigated niche variation within demographic groups or across ecological contexts.

Niche variation among sexes and life stages within a population has been documented in many species, yet few studies have investigated niche variation within demographic groups or across ecological contexts. We examined the extent to which pregnant California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) at each of three breeding colonies target alternative prey resources and habitats. The three colonies are distributed across distinct regions of the Gulf of California, Mexico and have divergent population dynamics. We compared the nature of niche variation among colonies and investigated the fitness consequences of different foraging strategies within each colony. We analyzed the δ13C and δ15N values from fur collected from 206 suckling pups to characterize relative maternal foraging locations (δ13C) and trophic levels (δ15N) during the metabolically demanding late stages of gestation and lactation that occur simultaneously in California sea lions. The δ13C and δ15N values were regressed against pup body condition index values to compare the relative individual-level fitness benefits of different maternal foraging strategies. We found that the nature and extent of niche variation differed among colonies. Niche variation was most pronounced at the two largest colonies that appear to experience the highest levels of intraspecific competition and the variation was consistent with habitat features. One colony (Granito) displayed two distinct foraging groups with indistinguishable median pup body condition values, whereas the second (San Jorge) exhibited continuous niche variation and pup body condition varied in relation to maternal foraging location and trophic level, suggesting disparities among alternative foraging strategies. For the smallest colony (Los Islotes), females occupy similar niches with a few outliers. Body condition values of pups at this colony were most variable, but did not vary with maternal foraging strategy. Our results provide evidence for intrapopulation niche variation among demographically similar individuals during a period of high metabolic stress and reproductive importance. This work suggests possible fitness benefits conferred by alternative foraging strategies, and calls into question the common assumption that members of a population are ecologically equivalent. Future research aimed at understanding animal foraging strategies should consider the nature and extent of niche variation in the context of local ecological conditions.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2013

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Functional traits affecting photosynthesis, growth, and mortality of trees inferred from a field study and simulation experiments

Description

Functional traits research has improved our understanding of how plants respond to their environments, identifying key trade-offs among traits. These studies primarily rely on correlative methods to infer trade-offs and

Functional traits research has improved our understanding of how plants respond to their environments, identifying key trade-offs among traits. These studies primarily rely on correlative methods to infer trade-offs and often overlook traits that are difficult to measure (e.g., root traits, tissue senescence rates), limiting their predictive ability under novel conditions. I aimed to address these limitations and develop a better understanding of the trait space occupied by trees by integrating data and process models, spanning leaves to whole-trees, via modern statistical and computational methods. My first research chapter (Chapter 2) simultaneously fits a photosynthesis model to measurements of fluorescence and photosynthetic response curves, improving estimates of mesophyll conductance (gm) and other photosynthetic traits. I assessed how gm varies across environmental gradients and relates to other photosynthetic traits for 4 woody species in Arizona. I found that gm was lower at high aridity sites, varied little within a site, and is an important trait for obtaining accurate estimates of photosynthesis and related traits under dry conditions. Chapter 3 evaluates the importance of functional traits for whole-tree performance by fitting an individual-based model of tree growth and mortality to millions of measurements of tree heights and diameters to assess the theoretical trait space (TTS) of “healthy” North American trees. The TTS contained complicated, multi-variate structure indicative of potential trade-offs leading to successful growth. In Chapter 4, I applied an environmental filter (light stress) to the TTS, leading to simulated stand-level mortality rates up to 50%. Tree-level mortality was explained by 6 of the 32 traits explored, with the most important being radiation-use efficiency. The multidimentional space comprising these 6 traits differed in volume and location between trees that survived and died, indicating that selective mortality alters the TTS.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2017

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The effect of plant neighbors on a common desert shrub's physiology and evapotranspiration

Description

Hydrological models in arid and semi-arid ecosystems can be subject to high uncertainties. Spatial variability in soil moisture and evapotranspiration, key components of the water cycle, can contribute to model

Hydrological models in arid and semi-arid ecosystems can be subject to high uncertainties. Spatial variability in soil moisture and evapotranspiration, key components of the water cycle, can contribute to model uncertainty. In particular, an understudied source of spatial variation is the effect of plant-plant interactions on water fluxes. At patch scales (plant and associated soil), plant neighbors can either negatively or positively affect soil water availability via competition or hydraulic redistribution, respectively. The aboveground microclimate can also be altered via canopy shading effects by neighbors. Across longer timescales (years), plants may adjust their physiological (water-use) traits in response to the neighbor-altered microclimate, which subsequently affects transpiration rates. The influence of physiological adjustments and neighbor-altered microclimate on water fluxes was assessed around Larrea tridentata in the Sonoran Desert. Field measurements of Larrea’s stomatal behavior and vertical root distributions were used to examine the effects of neighbors on Larrea’s physiological controls on transpiration. A modeling based approach was implemented to explore the sensitivity of evapotranspiration and soil moisture to neighbor effects. Neighbors significantly altered both above- and belowground physiological controls on evapotranspiration. Compared to Larrea growing alone, neighbors increased Larrea’s annual transpiration by up to 75% and 30% at the patch and stand scales, respectively. Estimates of annual transpiration were highly sensitive to the presence/absence of competition for water, and on seasonal timescales, physiological adjustments significantly influenced transpiration estimates. Plant-plant interactions can be a significant source of spatial variation in ecohydrological models, and both physiological adjustments to neighbors and neighbor effects on microclimate affect small scale (patch to ecosystem) water fluxes.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2015