Landscape and environmental controls over leaf and ecosystem carbon dioxide fluxes under woody plant expansion

Greg A Barron-Gafford, Russell L. Scott, G. Darrel Jenerette, Erik P. Hamerlynck, Travis E. Huxman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many regions of the globe are experiencing a simultaneous change in the dominant plant functional type and regional climatology. We explored how atmospheric temperature and precipitation control leaf- and ecosystem-scale carbon fluxes within a pair of semi-arid shrublands, one upland and one riparian, that have undergone woody plant expansion. Through a combination of leaf-level measurements on individual bunchgrasses and mesquites shrubs and ecosystem-scale monitoring using eddy covariance techniques, we sought to quantify rates of net carbon dioxide (CO2) flux, CO2 flux temperature sensitivity and the responsiveness of these parameters to seasonal rains and periods of soil dry-down. We found significant differences in physiological acclimation between the two plant functional types, in that the shrubs consistently conducted photosynthesis across a broader temperature range than co-occurring grasses during dry periods, yet maximum photosynthetic rates in grasses were twice that of mesquites during the wetter monsoon season. Landscape position modulated these temperature sensitivities, as the range of functional temperatures and maximum rates of photosynthesis were two to three times greater within the riparian shrubland in dry times. Also, it was unexpected that ecosystem-scale CO2 uptake within both shrublands would become most temperature sensitive within the monsoon, when mesquites and grasses had their broadest range of function. This is probably explained by the changing contributions of component photosynthetic fluxes, in that the more temperature sensitive grasses, which had higher maximal rates of photosynthesis, became a larger component of the ecosystem flux. Synthesis: Given projections of more variable precipitation and increased temperatures, it is important to understand differences in physiological activity between growth forms, as they are likely to drive patterns of ecosystem-scale CO2 flux. As access to stable subsurface water declines with decreased precipitation, these differential patterns of temperature sensitivity among growth forms, which are dependent on connectivity to groundwater, will only become more important in determining ecosystem carbon source/sink status. Given projections of more variable precipitation and increased temperatures, it is important to understand differences in physiological activity between growth forms, as they are likely to drive patterns of ecosystem-scale CO2 flux. As access to stable subsurface water declines with decreased precipitation, these differential patterns of temperature sensitivity among growth forms, which are dependent on connectivity to groundwater, will only become more important in determining ecosystem carbon source/sink status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1471-1483
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Ecology
Volume101
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2013

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woody plant
woody plants
carbon dioxide
ecosystems
ecosystem
growth form
leaves
temperature
shrubland
grass
shrublands
grasses
photosynthesis
connectivity
monsoon
shrub
carbon
groundwater
environmental control
shrubs

Keywords

  • Eddy covariance
  • Landscape position
  • Mesquite (Prosopis velutina)
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant-climate interactions
  • Semi-arid
  • Temperature optima
  • Vegetation change
  • Woody plant encroachment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science

Cite this

Landscape and environmental controls over leaf and ecosystem carbon dioxide fluxes under woody plant expansion. / Barron-Gafford, Greg A; Scott, Russell L.; Jenerette, G. Darrel; Hamerlynck, Erik P.; Huxman, Travis E.

In: Journal of Ecology, Vol. 101, No. 6, 11.2013, p. 1471-1483.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Barron-Gafford, Greg A ; Scott, Russell L. ; Jenerette, G. Darrel ; Hamerlynck, Erik P. ; Huxman, Travis E. / Landscape and environmental controls over leaf and ecosystem carbon dioxide fluxes under woody plant expansion. In: Journal of Ecology. 2013 ; Vol. 101, No. 6. pp. 1471-1483.
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