The mechanisms of plant mortality in response to climate change
Climate change has been linked to drastic vegetation shifts, including massive deaths of plant species in several ecosystems. Understanding how such events are linked to climate change is a daunting task since plant mortality could be the response to multiple factors acting together. One avenue for resolving this dilemma is to develop experiments that artificially induce mortality in plants under precise environmental manipulation. The ability to control temperature and water availability somewhat independently makes Biosphere 2 an ideal place to develop a better mechanistic understanding of climate-induced plant mortality.
Pinyon pine trees were grown in pots and subjected to drought while exposed to different temperatures in order to study the temperature sensitivity and mechanism of drought-induced death.
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The susceptibility of native and exotic grasses to drought and temperature, and potential competitive interactions will be evaluated by growing different species in pots across the environmental gradients at B2.
We are designing manipulative experiments in B2 to investigate the impact of droughts, rising temperatures on native and invasive grass communities and how these communities partition resources (soil moisture, nutrients) in changing environmental conditions. Modeling studies will address the impact of rapid vegetation changes and implications on ecohydrological processes and desertification. We are also studying the weathering of basalt and removal of lithogenic minerals in solution, and how these rates might vary among native and non-native grasses.