BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Elevated CO2 Suppresses Dominant Plant Species in a Mixed-Grass Prairie
Published: October 13, 2014
Posted: January 22, 2015

Climate controls vegetation distribution across the globe, with some vegetation types being more vulnerable to climate change and others more resistant. Because resistance and resilience can influence ecosystem stability and determine how communities and ecosystems respond to climate change, it is important to evaluate the potential for resistance in future ecosystem function. In a mixed-grass prairie in the northern Great Plains, researchers utilized a large field experiment to test the effects of elevated CO2, warming, and summer irrigation on plant community structure and productivity. This study sought to understand changes to both stability in plant community composition and biomass production. The researchers found that the independent effects of CO2 and warming on community composition and productivity depend on interannual variation in precipitation and that the effects of elevated CO2 are not limited to water saving because they differ from those of irrigation. They also show that production in this mixed-grass prairie ecosystem is not only relatively resistant to interannual variation in precipitation, but also rendered more stable under elevated CO2 conditions. This increase in production stability is the result of altered community dominance patterns: Community evenness increases as dominant species decrease in biomass under elevated CO2. In many grasslands that serve as rangelands, the economic value of the ecosystem is largely dependent on plant community composition and the relative abundance of key forage species. These results have implications for how native grasslands are managed in the face of changing climate.

Reference: Zelikova, T. J., D. M. Blumenthal, D. G. Williams, L. Souza, D. R. LeCain, J. Morgan, and E. Pendall. 2014. “Long-Term Exposure to Elevated CO2 Enhances Plant Community Stability by Suppressing Dominant Plant Species in a Mixed-Grass Prairie,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 111(43), 15,456-461. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1414659111. (Reference link)

Contact: Mike Kuperberg, SC-23.1, (301) 903-3281, Daniel Stover, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0289
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Jan 11, 2022
No Honor Among Copper Thieves
Findings provide a novel means to manipulate methanotrophs for a variety of environmental and in [more...]

Dec 06, 2021
New Genome Editing Tools Can Edit Within Microbial Communities
Two new technologies allow scientists to edit specific species and genes within complex laborato [more...]

Oct 27, 2021
Fungal Recyclers: Fungi Reuse Fire-Altered Organic Matter
Degrading pyrogenic (fire-affected) organic matter is an important ecosystem function of fungi i [more...]

Oct 19, 2021
Microbes Offer a Glimpse into the Future of Climate Change
Scientists identify key features in microbes that predict how warming affects carbon dioxide emi [more...]

Aug 25, 2021
Assessing the Production Cost and Carbon Footprint of a Promising Aviation Biofuel
Biomass-derived DMCO has the potential to serve as a low-carbon, high-performance jet fuel blend [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)