Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Key drought tolerant traits of several dominant plant species in a tallgrass prairie

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Robert Griffin-Nolan
Alan Knapp
Troy Ocheltree
Melinda Smith

Climate change models forecast an increase in drought severity and frequency globally. Grassland ecosystems, which constitute 40% of Earth’s terrestrial surface and provide valuable services such as carbon storage, soil stabilization, and forage production, are particularly sensitive to drought given that most are water limited systems. It is important to understand how grassland species will respond to drought, especially those species that have large impacts on the above mentioned ecosystem services. Here, we present a survey of multiple drought tolerant traits for two dominant species (Andropogon gerardii and Sorghastrum nutans) as well as several subdominant species collected from an upland tall grass prairie site of Konza Prairie Biological Station. We measured leaf hydrualic conductivity, osmotic potential at full turgor, stomatal pore index, specific leaf area, and individual biomass. These traits together can be used to predict carbon storage as well as plant mortality during drought.

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