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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  24 Apr 2020

24 Apr 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Timing of drought in the growing season and strong legacy effects determine the annual productivity of temperate grasses in a changing climate

Claudia Hahn1, Sara Ernst-Hasler1, Andreas Lüscher2, and Ansgar Kahmen1 Claudia Hahn et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences - Botany, University of Basel, Schönbeinstrasse 6, 4056 Basel, Switzerland
  • 2Forage Production and Grassland Systems, Agroscope, Reckenholzstrasse 191, 8046 Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. The frequency of extreme weather events, such as droughts, is assumed to increase leading to alterations of ecosystem productivity and thus the terrestrial carbon cycle. Although grasslands typically show reduced productivity in response to drought, their effects have been shown to vary quite dramatically. Here we tested in a two-year field experiment, if the resistance and the resilience of grasses towards drought varies throughout a growing season and if the timing of drought, thus, influences drought-induced reductions in annual net primary production (NPP) of grasses. For the experiment we grew six temperate and perennial C3 grass species in a field as monocultures. The grasses were cut six times during the growing season and subject to 10-week drought treatments that occurred either in the spring, the summer or the fall. Across all species, drought-induced losses of productivity were smaller (−20 % to −51 %) than in summer and fall (−77 % to −87 %). This suggests a higher resistance to drought in spring when the productivity of the grasses is the highest and plants are in their reproductive stage. After the release of drought, we found no prolonged suppression of growth. In contrast, post-drought growth rates of formerly drought-stressed swards outperformed the growth rates of the control swards. In 2014, the overcompensation after drought release was similar in all seasons, but differed in 2015. The strong overcompensation of growth after drought release resulted in relatively small overall drought-induced losses of annual ANPP that ranged between −4 % to −14 % and were not affected by the timing of the drought event. Our results show that (i) the resistance of growth rates in grasses to drought varies across the season and is positively correlated with growth rates in the control, (ii) that positive legacy effects of drought indicate a high resilience of temperate grasses to drought, and (iii) that the high resilience can compensate immediate drought effects on total annual biomass production to a large extent.

Claudia Hahn et al.

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Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
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Claudia Hahn et al.

Claudia Hahn et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
While existing studies focus on immediate effects of drought events on grassland productivity long-term effects are mostly neglected. But to conclude universal outcomes, studies must consider comprehensive ecosystems mechanisms. In our study we found that the resistance of growth rates to drought in grasses varies across seasons and that positive legacy effects of drought indicate a high resilience. The high resilience compensates immediate drought effects on ANPP to a large extent.
While existing studies focus on immediate effects of drought events on grassland productivity...