TEMPERATURE AND PRECIPITATION CONTROLS OVER SOIL, LEAF AND ECOSYSTEM LEVEL CO2 FLUX ALONG A WOODY PLANT ENCROACHMENT GRADIENT
AuthorBarron-Gafford, Greg Alan
woody plant encroachment
Committee ChairHuxman, Travis E.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractWoody plant encroachment (WPE) into historic grasslands not only alters ecosystem structure but also yields a mosaic of vegetative growth-forms that differ in their inherent physiological capacities and physical attributes. C₃ plants tend to have a relatively broad range of temperature function but at the expensive of a lower optimum rate of photosynthesis. In contrast, C₄ grasses have a greater capacity for maximum uptake but across a relatively narrow range of temperatures. In considering which of these functional groups will outcompete the other within these regions undergoing WPE, one must account not only for these leaf physiological traits, but also the growth form induced differences in rooting depth, and therefore, potential access to deeper subsurface water. Laid upon these competitive interactions is an ever-changing environment, which for the semiarid southwestern US is predicted to become progressively warmer and characterized by highly variable precipitation with longer interstorm periods. In addition to aboveground changes in CO₂ assimilation, WPE influences soil nutrient, water, and carbon cycling. The objectives of this dissertation were to quantify: (1) the influence that temperature and available soil moisture have on regulating soil respiratory efflux within the microhabitats that results from WPE to estimate the influence this vegetative change will have on ecosystem CO₂ efflux; (2) the sensitivity of CO₂ uptake within grassland and woodland ecosystems to temperature and precipitation input in an effort to characterize how WPE might influence regional carbon and water balance; and (3) the role access to stable groundwater has in regulating the temperature sensitivity of ecosystems and their component fluxes. Major findings and contributions of this research include illustrating seasonal patterns of soil respiration within the microhabitats that result from WPE, such that an analysis of the relative contributions of these different components could be made. We found that soil respiration was not only consistently greater under mesquites, but that the relative contributions of these microhabitats varied significantly throughout the year, the duration of soil respiration after each rain was habitat-specific, and that the relationship between soil respiration and temperature followed a hysteretic pattern rather than a linear function (Appendix A). We found that a woodland ecosystem demonstrated a lower temperature sensitivity than a grassland across all seasonal periods of varying soil moisture availability, and that by maintaining physiological function across a wider range of temperatures throughout periods of limited precipitation, C₃ mesquites were acquiring large amounts of carbon while C₄ grasses were limited to functioning within a narrower range of temperatures (Appendix B). Finally, we found that having a connectivity to stable groundwater decoupled leaf and ecosystem scale temperature sensitivities relative to comparable sites lacking such access. Access to groundwater not only resulted in the temperature sensitivity of a riparian shrubland being nearly half that of the upland site throughout all seasonal periods, but also actual rates of net ecosystem productivity and leaf level rates of photosynthesis being dramatically enhanced (Appendix C).
Degree ProgramEcology & Evolutionary Biology