Impact of Recurrent Drought on Grassland Productivity is Mediated by Ratio of Grasses to Forbs

by Zhang Nannan, Chinese Academy of Sciences
February 07, 2023

Drought frequency has significantly increased worldwide as a result of global change, resulting in great damage to grassland ecosystem functioning. Drought events affect not only the current composition and structure of grassland plant communities, but also their future structure and function and their responses to environmental changes. Previous studies have focused on examining plant community resistance to drought, while the research on structural and functional resilience of plant communities after extreme drought is far from enough.

In view of this, Dr. LUO Wentao, associate researcher of the Eco-stoichiometry research group of the Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, led a study examining grassland natural restoration following two consecutive years of extreme drought manipulation, and explored the carry-over effects of the extreme drought event on plant community structure and function.

The researchers found that within two years after the cessation of extreme drought treatment, plant productivity of the drought-treated communities could be largely restored, or even significantly higher than that of control communities, suggesting that extreme drought can result in a positive carry-over effects, which in turn can improve the sustainability and stability of grasslands. This finding challenges the conventional judgment that “”drought has negative carry-over effects on grassland productivity.””

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