Posted by: oikosasa | September 28, 2012

It’s raining again…

Nothing can spoil a vacation as efficiently as a rainfall. And nothing affects a farmer’s mood as rain- it’s presence or it’s abscence. Too much or too litte. Always an issue worth of debating.

In one of the latest Early View papers in Oikos, “Seasonal, not annual precipitation drives community productivity across ecosystems”, Todd M. P. Robinson, and co-workers study the effects of precipitation on plant production in various ecosystems.

Below, the authors give a short background to the study:

While any farmer will tell you how important it is to receive rainfall at certain times of the year, many ecological plant studies focus on how total annual rainfall affects plant production. After a meeting for the US Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER), a group of us decided to test just how helpful it would be to focus on shorter time scales by examining whether rainfall during either the beginning, middle, or end of the growing season correlated with total aboveground production during the same season. We found that focusing on the amount of rain across one or two short time periods usually gave as much or more information on plant production as annual rainfall amounts. This was generally true across a wide array of communities from desserts to forests, despite the large difference in vegetation types and total available water.

As a graduate student working group with members from multiple institutions, we supplemented our initial LTER funded workshop by using Skype and email to coordinate our analyses and writing. As young scientists, we are excited that our cross-site analysis can contribute to the development of a more nuanced approach to plant-rainfall interactions. We expect that the combination of our work with other advances in plant-water dynamics will improve our understanding of how current and future variation in precipitation will affect plant communities.


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