Which climate is grassland?
An important question to ask is whether grassland is more vulnerable to climate change than other kinds of land.
This is especially true for grasslands that grow crops like soybeans and cotton, which are typically more resilient to rising temperatures than other types of land, including forests and marshes.
The data from a new study, published in the journal Science Advances, suggests that grasslands can be more vulnerable than other land types to rising temperature, particularly during periods of drought.
The paper is the first to directly look at this question and finds that grasslands are much more vulnerable when they experience higher temperatures than forested areas.
This study is the latest in a series of studies that have found that the impacts of warming are felt more acutely on grassland than other forms of land and the future of grassland depends on how it is managed.
While there is a need to understand how climate change is affecting grassland ecosystems, the research also shows that the impact of warming on grasslands depends on its location.
“It’s really a good time to look at how grasslands are changing,” said lead author Jennifer Houghton, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University.
“The question is whether they’re more vulnerable, or if we need to change the management that we do on these lands, because they’re the ones that are most likely to suffer the most from climate change.”
In a climate study that included multiple decades of research, the researchers found that grasses can withstand higher temperatures, particularly when they grow crops that rely on moisture.
“What we’ve seen is that when grasslands get warmer, the plants are more tolerant of more moisture,” said Houghon.
“But we know that as they get colder, their ability to hold on to moisture diminishes, so they get more vulnerable.”
The scientists analyzed more than 6,500 years of climate data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which measures the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
These temperatures and precipitation are important factors that influence the ability of grasslands to survive.
For instance, higher temperatures lead to the formation of new grasses and shrubs and the ability to grow crops, which in turn is crucial to maintaining water supply and soil fertility.
But when grasses get warmer they can become less resilient to drought.
This leads to increased water availability for the plants and to the reduction in water storage in grasslands.
“One of the things that we’ve learned over the last 30 years is that grass grows best when it’s exposed to warmer temperatures,” said co-author Jason Gorman, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Rutgers.
“So, if grasslands experience more drought, they’re less likely to have grasses to replace them.”
The researchers compared grassland data from the late 1800s to the early 2000s, looking at the change in temperature across the landscape and across the year.
The researchers found a consistent trend in climate change-related changes across grassland species: higher temperatures were associated with more drought-related mortality in grassland.
But, the impact varied depending on which kind of grass the grassland was.
“Some grasses are really resilient, and some grasses don’t have that resilience,” said Gorman.
“And that’s why we’re so interested in finding out how those different responses change.”
While climate change does play a role in changing the composition of the landscape, there are other factors that can affect how grassland plants respond to changing temperatures.
For example, changes in soil moisture could be more significant when it comes to the survival of some grassland animals, like grasshoppers.
In addition, the soil can change as grasslands change, leading to soil erosion that could reduce water storage for the grasses.
And the soil may not stay in place forever, so it can get contaminated by more CO2 and other pollutants.
“If you look at some of the grasslands, we found that a lot of those that were the least exposed to the impacts were also the ones with the least erosion,” said David Anderson, a research scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at Rutgers, who was not involved in the study.
“That’s something that we need more study on, but we’re definitely seeing changes over time.”
While the effects of climate change are being measured, they are not yet clear-cut.
“There’s a lot more research to do to determine how this impacts ecosystems and species, and to identify the ways that we can make improvements in the management of these ecosystems,” said Anderson.
This research is part of a larger research effort that is examining how ecosystems can respond to changes in their climate, particularly by helping to protect habitats.
“We’re seeing more and more evidence that ecosystems are responding to climate-related impacts,” said Dr. Daniel Siegel, a postdoctoral fellow at CIRES.
“With that in mind, we want to see how