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Litvak, Marcy E

Southwestern North America faces an imminent transition to a warmer, more arid climate, and it is critical to understand how these changes will affect the carbon balance of southwest ecosystems. In order to test our hypothesis that differential responses of production and respiration to temperature and moisture shape the carbon balance across a range of spatio-temporal scales, we quantified net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of CO2 and carbon storage across the New Mexico Elevational Gradient, which consists of six eddy-covariance sites representing biomes ranging from desert to subalpine conifer forest. Within sites, hotter and drier conditions were associated with an increasing advantage of respiration relative to production...
Woody plant encroachment is affecting vegetation composition in arid grasslands worldwide and has been associated with a number of environmental drivers and feedbacks. It has been argued that the relatively abrupt character (both in space and in time) of grassland-to-shrubland transitions observed in many drylands around the world might result from positive feedbacks in the underlying ecosystem dynamics. In the case of the Chihuahuan Desert, we show that one such feedback could emerge from interactions between vegetation and microclimate conditions. Shrub establishment modifies surface energy fluxes, causing an increase in nighttime air temperature, particularly during wintertime. The resulting change in winter...
We used co-located observations of snow depth, soil temperature, and moisture and energy fluxes to monitor variability in snowmelt infiltration and vegetation water use at mixed-conifer sub-alpine forest sites in the Valles Caldera, New Mexico (3020 m) and on Niwot Ridge, Colorado (3050 m). At both sites, vegetation structure largely controlled the distribution of snow accumulation with 29% greater accumulation in open versus under-canopy locations. Snow ablation rates were diminished by 39% in under-canopy locations, indicating increases in vegetation density act to extend the duration of the snowmelt season. Similarly, differences in climate altered snow-season duration, snowmelt infiltration and evapotranspiration....
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