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Arid and semi-arid ecosystems of the southwestern US are undergoing changes in vegetation composition and are predicted to experience shifts in climate. To understand implications of these current and predicted changes, we conducted a precipitation manipulation experiment on the Santa Rita Experimental Range in southeastern Arizona. The objectives of our study were to determine how soil surface and seasonal timing of rainfall events mediate the dynamics of leaf-level photosynthesis and plant water status of a native and non-native grass species in response to precipitation pulse events. We followed a simulated precipitation event (pulse) that occurred prior to the onset of the North American monsoon (in June) and...
Physiological activity and structural dynamics in arid and semi-arid ecosystems are driven by discrete inputs or "pulses" of growing season precipitation. Here we describe the short-term dynamics of ecosystem physiology in experimental stands of native (Heteropogon contortus) and invasive (Eragrostis lehmanniana) grasses to an irrigation pulse across two geomorphic surfaces with distinctly different soils: a Pleistocene-aged surface with high clay content in a strongly horizonated soil, and a Holocene-aged surface with low clay content in homogenously structured soils. We evaluated whole-ecosystem and leaf-level CO2 and H2O exchange, soil CO2 efflux, along with plant and soil water status to understand potential...
? The influences of prior monsoon-season drought (PMSD) and the seasonal timing of episodic rainfall (?pulses?) on carbon and water exchange in water-limited ecosystems are poorly quantified. ? In the present study, we estimated net ecosystem exchange of CO2 (NEE) and evapotranspiration (ET) before, and for 15 d following, experimental irrigation in a semi-arid grassland during June and August 2003. Rainout shelters near Tucson, Arizona, USA, were positioned on contrasting soils (clay and sand) and planted with native (Heteropogon contortus) or non-native invasive (Eragrostis lehmanniana) C4 bunchgrasses. Plots received increased (?wet?) or decreased (?dry?) monsoon-season (July?September) rainfall during 2002 and...
Recent trends of increasing woody vegetation in arid and semiarid ecosystems may contribute substantially to the North American C sink. There is considerable uncertainty, however, in the extent to which woody encroachment alters dryland soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN) pools. To date, studies assessing SOC and TN response to woody plant proliferation have not explicitly assessed the variability caused by shrub age or size and subcanopy spatial gradients. These factors were quantified via spatially intensive soil sampling around Prosopis velutina shrubs in a semidesert grassland, using shrub size as a proxy for age. We found that bulk density increased with distance from the bole (P < 0.005) and...
1 In water-limited ecosystems, discrete precipitation events trigger brief but important episodes of biological activity. Differential responses of above- and below-ground biota to precipitation may constrain biogeochemical transformations at the ecosystem scale. 2 We quantified short-term dynamics of whole ecosystem response to 39 mm irrigation events (precipitation pulses) during June 2002 and 2003 using plant physiological and ecosystem gas-exchange measurements as state variables in a principal components analysis (PCA). Experimental plots consisted of either native (Heteropogon contortus L.) or non-native (Eragrostis lehmanniana Nees) bunchgrasses planted in monoculture on two distinct geomorphic surfaces in...
Changes in the timing, frequency, and magnitude of precipitation events are projected for semiarid ecosystems worldwide. The ecological consequences associated with these precipitation changes will be better understood if the hydrological triggers of vegetation response can be better identified. Previous research has suggested that soil moisture, likely from large monsoon rainstorms, plays a critical role in triggering the phenological response of semiarid shrublands. Here we propose that the recent emergence of time-lapse repeat digital photography (pheno-cams) can play a role in further explaining the hydrological triggers of phenological response in semiarid shrublands. This study is focused on a creosotebush-dominated...