The resilience of annual vegetation primary production subjected to different climate change scenarios Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • We examined if climate change in two dry ecosystems—Mediterranean (DME) and Semiarid (SAE)—would cause substantial reduction in the production of annual vegetation. Field measurements and computer simulations were used to examine the following six climate change scenarios: (1) rainfall amount reduction; (2) increases of 10 % in annual evaporation rate and 5 % in annual temperature; (3) increase in magnitude of rainfall events, accompanied by reductions in frequency and seasonal variation; (4) postponement of the beginning of the first rainfall event of the growing season; (5) long dry spells during the growing season; and (6) early ending of the growing season. The results revealed the following outcomes. a) Reduction by 5–35 % in annual rainfall amount did not significantly affect productivity in the DME, but a large (25–35 %) decrease in rainfall would change vegetation productivity in the SAE and lead to a patchier environment. b) Similar results were observed: when temperature and evaporation rate were increased; when the magnitude of rainfall events increased but their frequency decreased; and during a long mid-season dry spell. c) In both ecosystems, changes in the temporal distribution of rainfall, especially at the beginning of the season, caused the largest reduction in productivity, accompanied by increased patchiness. d) Long-term data gathered during the last three decades indicated that both environments exhibited high resilience of productivity under rainfall variability. These results imply that the response of dry ecosystems to climate change is not characterized by a dramatic decrease in productivity. Moreover, these ecosystems are more resilient than expected, and their herbaceous productivity might undergo drastic changes only under more severe scenarios than those currently predicted in the literature.

publication date

  • January 1, 2013