Effects of experimental watering but not warming on herbivory vary across a gradient of precipitation.
ABSTRACT: Climate change can affect biotic interactions, and the impacts of climate on biotic interactions may vary across climate gradients. Climate affects biotic interactions through multiple drivers, although few studies have investigated multiple climate drivers in experiments. We examined the effects of experimental watering, warming, and predator access on leaf water content and herbivory rates of woolly bear caterpillars (Arctia virginalis) on a native perennial plant, pacific silverweed (Argentina anserina ssp. pacifica), at two sites across a gradient of precipitation in coastal California. Based on theory, we predicted that watering should increase herbivory at the drier end of the gradient, predation should decrease herbivory, and watering and warming should have positive interacting effects on herbivory. Consistent with our predictions, we found that watering only increased herbivory under drier conditions. However, watering increased leaf water content at both wetter and drier sites. Warming increased herbivory irrespective of local climate and did not interact with watering. Predation did not affect herbivory rates. Given predictions that the study locales will become warmer and drier with climate change, our results suggest that the effects of future warming and drying on herbivory may counteract each other in drier regions of the range of Argentina anserina. Our findings suggest a useful role for range-limit theory and the stress-gradient hypothesis in predicting climate change effects on herbivory across stress gradients. Specifically, if climate change decreases stress, herbivory may increase, and vice versa for increasing stress. In addition, our work supports previous suggestions that multiple climate drivers are likely to have dampening effects on biotic interactions due to effects in different directions, though this is context-dependent.
Project description:Global climate change is affecting and will continue to affect ecosystems worldwide. Specifically, temperature and precipitation are both expected to shift globally, and their separate and interactive effects will likely affect ecosystems differentially depending on current temperature, precipitation regimes, and other biotic and environmental factors. It is not currently understood how the effects of increasing temperature on plant communities may depend on either precipitation or where communities lie on soil moisture gradients. Such knowledge would play a crucial role in increasing our predictive ability for future effects of climate change in different systems. To this end, we conducted a multi-factor global change experiment at two locations, differing in temperature, moisture, aspect, and plant community composition, on the same slope in the northern Mongolian steppe. The natural differences in temperature and moisture between locations served as a point of comparison for the experimental manipulations of temperature and precipitation. We conducted two separate experiments, one examining the effect of climate manipulation via open-top chambers (OTCs) across the two different slope locations, the other a factorial OTC by watering experiment at one of the two locations. By combining these experiments, we were able to assess how OTCs impact plant productivity and diversity across a natural and manipulated range of soil moisture. We found that warming effects were context dependent, with the greatest negative impacts of warming on diversity in the warmer, drier upper slope location and in the unwatered plots. Our study is an important step in understanding how global change will affect ecosystems across multiple scales and locations.
Project description:Global warming is projected to continue, leading to intense fluctuations in precipitation and heat waves and thereby affecting the productivity and the relevant biological processes of grassland ecosystems. Here, we determined the functional responses to warming and altered precipitation in both typical and desert steppes. The results showed that watering markedly increased the aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) in a typical steppe during a drier year and in a desert steppe over two years, whereas warming manipulation had no significant effect. The soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and the soil respiration (SR) were increased by watering in both steppes, but the SR was significantly decreased by warming in the desert steppe only. The inorganic nitrogen components varied irregularly, with generally lower levels in the desert steppe. The belowground traits of soil total organic carbon (TOC) and the MBC were more closely associated with the ANPP in the desert than in the typical steppes. The results showed that the desert steppe with lower productivity may respond strongly to precipitation changes, particularly with warming, highlighting the positive effect of adding water with warming. Our study implies that the habitat- and year-specific responses to warming and watering should be considered when predicting an ecosystem's functional responses under climate change scenarios.
Project description:This study presents an experimental approach to assess the relative importance of climatic and biotic factors as determinants of species' geographical distributions. We asked to what extent responses of grassland plant species to biotic interactions vary with climate, and to what degree this variation depends on the species' biogeography. Using a gradient from oceanic to continental climate represented by nine common garden transplant sites in Germany, we experimentally tested whether congeneric grassland species of different geographic distribution (oceanic vs. continental plant range type) responded differently to combinations of climate, competition and mollusc herbivory. We found the relative importance of biotic interactions and climate to vary between the different components of plant performance. While survival and plant height increased with precipitation, temperature had no effect on plant performance. Additionally, species with continental plant range type increased their growth in more benign climatic conditions, while those with oceanic range type were largely unable to take a similar advantage of better climatic conditions. Competition generally caused strong reductions of aboveground biomass and growth. In contrast, herbivory had minor effects on survival and growth. Against expectation, these negative effects of competition and herbivory were not mitigated under more stressful continental climate conditions. In conclusion we suggest variation in relative importance of climate and biotic interactions on broader scales, mediated via species-specific sensitivities and factor-specific response patterns. Our results have important implications for species distribution models, as they emphasize the large-scale impact of biotic interactions on plant distribution patterns and the necessity to take plant range types into account.
Project description:Gaining insight into the impact of anthropogenic change on ecosystems requires investigation into interdependencies between multiple drivers of ecological change and multiple biotic responses. Global environmental change drivers can act simultaneously to impact the abundance and diversity of biota, but few studies have also measured the impact across trophic levels. We firstly investigated whether climate (using temperature differences across a latitudinal gradient as a surrogate) interacts with habitat fragmentation (measured according to fragment area and distance to habitat edges) to impact a New Zealand tri-trophic food chain (plant, herbivore and natural enemy). Secondly, we examined how these interactions might differentially impact both the density and biotic processes of species at each of the three trophic levels. We found evidence to suggest that these drivers act non-additively across trophic levels. The nature of these interactions however varied: location synergistically interacted with fragmentation measures to exacerbate the detrimental effects on consumer density; and antagonistically interacted to ameliorate the impact on plant density and on the interactions between trophic levels (herbivory and parasitoid attack rate). Our findings indicate that the ecological consequences of multiple global change drivers are strongly interactive and vary according to the trophic level studied and whether density or ecological processes are investigated.
Project description:Most climate and environmental change models predict significant increases in temperature and precipitation by the end of the 21st Century, for which the current functional output of certain symbioses may also be altered. In this context we address the following questions: 1) How the expected changes in abiotic factors (temperature, and water) differentially affect the ecophysiological performance of the plant Colobanthus quitensis? and 2) Will this environmental change indirectly affect C. quitensis photochemical performance and biomass accumulation by modifying its association with fungal endophytes? Plants of C. quitensis from King George Island in the South Shetland archipelago (62°09' S), and Lagotellerie Island in the Antarctic Peninsula (65°53' S) were put under simulated abiotic conditions in growth chambers following predictive models of global climate change (GCC). The indirect effect of GCC on the interaction between C. quitensis and fungal endophytes was assessed in a field experiment carried out in the Antarctica, in which we eliminated endophytes under contemporary conditions and applied experimental watering to simulate increased precipitation input. We measured four proxies of plant performance. First, we found that warming (+W) significantly increased plant performance, however its effect tended to be less than watering (+W) and combined warming and watering (+T°+W). Second, the presence of fungal endophytes improved plant performance, and its effect was significantly decreased under experimental watering. Our results indicate that both biotic and abiotic factors affect ecophysiological performance, and the directions of these influences will change with climate change. Our findings provide valuable information that will help to predict future population spread and evolution through using ecological niche models under different climatic scenarios.
Project description:Climate model simulations uniformly show drier and warmer summers in the Eurasian midcontinent during the mid-Holocene, which is not consistent with paleoenvironmental observations. The simulated climate results from a reduction in the zonal temperature gradient, which weakens westerly flow and reduces moisture flux and precipitation in the midcontinent. As a result, sensible heating is favored over evaporation and latent heating, resulting in substantial surface-driven atmospheric warming. Thus, the discrepancy with the paleoenvironmental evidence arises initially from a problem in the simulated circulation and is exacerbated by feedback from the land surface. This region is also drier and warmer than indicated by observations in the preindustrial control simulations, and this bias arises in the same way: zonal flow and hence moisture flux into the midcontinent are too weak, and feedback from the land surface results in surface-driven warming. These analyses suggest the need to improve those aspects of climate models that affect the strength of westerly circulation.
Project description:Above- and belowground carbon (C) stores of terrestrial ecosystems are vulnerable to environmental change. Ecosystem C balances in response to environmental changes have been quantified at individual sites, but the magnitudes and directions of these responses along environmental gradients remain uncertain. Here we show the responses of ecosystem C to 8-12 years of experimental drought and night-time warming across an aridity gradient spanning seven European shrublands using indices of C assimilation (aboveground net primary production: aNPP) and soil C efflux (soil respiration: Rs). The changes of aNPP and Rs in response to drought indicated that wet systems had an overall risk of increased loss of C but drier systems did not. Warming had no consistent effect on aNPP across the climate gradient, but suppressed Rs more at the drier sites. Our findings suggest that above- and belowground C fluxes can decouple, and provide no evidence of acclimation to environmental change at a decadal timescale. aNPP and Rs especially differed in their sensitivity to drought and warming, with belowground processes being more sensitive to environmental change.
Project description:Herbivores can exert major controls over biogeochemical cycling. As invertebrates are highly sensitive to temperature shifts (ectothermal), the abundances of insects in high-latitude systems, where climate warming is rapid, is expected to increase. In subarctic mountain birch forests, research has focussed on geometrid moth outbreaks, while the contribution of background insect herbivory (BIH) to elemental cycling is poorly constrained. In northern Sweden, we estimated BIH along 9 elevational gradients distributed across a gradient in regional elevation, temperature, and precipitation to allow evaluation of consistency in local versus regional variation. We converted foliar loss via BIH to fluxes of C, nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) from the birch canopy to the soil to compare with other relevant soil inputs of the same elements and assessed different abiotic and biotic drivers of the observed variability. We found that leaf area loss due to BIH was ~1.6% on average. This is comparable to estimates from tundra, but considerably lower than ecosystems at lower latitudes. The C, N, and P fluxes from canopy to soil associated with BIH were 1-2 orders of magnitude lower than the soil input from senesced litter and external nutrient sources such as biological N fixation, atmospheric deposition of N, and P weathering estimated from the literature. Despite the minor contribution to overall elemental cycling in subarctic birch forests, the higher quality and earlier timing of the input of herbivore deposits to soils compared to senesced litter may make this contribution disproportionally important for various ecosystem functions. BIH increased significantly with leaf N content as well as local elevation along each transect, yet showed no significant relationship with temperature or humidity, nor the commonly used temperature proxy, absolute elevation. The lack of consistency between the local and regional elevational trends calls for caution when using elevation gradients as climate proxies.
Project description:Long-term monitoring, space-for-time substitutions along gradients, and in situ temperature manipulations are common approaches to understand effects of climate change on alpine and arctic plant communities. Although general patterns emerge from studies using different approaches, there are also some inconsistencies. To provide better estimates of plant community responses to future warming across a range of environments, there have been repeated calls for integrating different approaches within single studies. Thus, to examine how different methods in climate change effect studies may ask different questions, we combined three climate warming approaches in a single study in the Hengduan Mountains of southwestern China. We monitored plant communities along an elevation gradient using the space-for-time approach, and conducted warming experiments using open top chambers (OTCs) and plant community transplantation toward warmer climates along the same gradient. Plant species richness and abundances were monitored over 5 years addressing two questions: (1) how do plant communities respond to the different climate warming approaches? (2) how can the combined approaches improve predictions of plant community responses to climate change? The general trend across all three approaches was decreased species richness with climate warming at low elevations. This suggests increased competition from immigrating lowland species, and/or from the species already growing inside the plots, as indicated by increased biomass, vegetation height or proportion of graminoids. At the coldest sites, species richness decreased in OTCs and along the gradient, but increased in the transplants, suggesting that plant communities in colder climates are more open to invasion from lowland species, with slow species loss. This was only detected in the transplants, showing that different approaches, may yield different results. Whereas OTCs may constrain immigration of new species, transplanted communities are rapidly exposed to new neighbors that can easily colonize the small plots. Thus, different approaches ask slightly different questions, in particular regarding indirect climate change effects, such as biotic interactions. To better understand both direct and indirect effects of climate change on plant communities, we need to combine approaches in future studies, and if novel interactions are of particular interest, transplants may be a better approach than OTCs.
Project description:Climate warming is predicted to affect species and trophic interactions worldwide, and alpine ecosystems are expected to be especially sensitive to changes. In this study, we used two ongoing climate warming (open-top chambers) experiments at Finse, southern Norway, to examine whether warming had an effect on herbivory by leaf-chewing insects in an alpine <i>Dryas</i> heath community. We recorded feeding marks on the most common vascular plant species in warmed and control plots at two experimental sites at different elevations and carried out a brief inventory of insect herbivores. Experimental warming increased herbivory on <i>Dryas octopetala</i> and <i>Bistorta vivipara. Dryas octopetala</i> also experienced increased herbivory at the lower and warmer site, indicating an overall positive effect of warming, whereas <i>B. vivipara</i> experienced an increased herbivory at the colder and higher site indicating a mixed effect of warming. The Lepidoptera <i>Zygaena exulans</i> and <i>Sympistis nigrita</i> were the two most common leaf-chewing insects in the <i>Dryas</i> heath. Based on the observed patterns of herbivory, the insects life cycles and feeding preferences, we argue that <i>Z. exulans</i> is the most important herbivore on <i>B. vivipara,</i> and <i>S. nigrita</i> the most important herbivore on <i>D. octopetala</i>. We conclude that if the degree of insect herbivory increases in a warmer world, as suggested by this study and others, complex interactions between plants, insects, and site-specific conditions make it hard to predict overall effects on plant communities.