Legacies of precipitation fluctuations on primary production: Theory and data synthesis

Osvaldo Sala, Laureano A. Gherardi, Lara Reichmann, Esteban Jobbágy, Debra Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

226 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Variability of above-ground net primary production (ANPP) of arid to sub-humid ecosystems displays a closer association with precipitation when considered across space (based on multiyear averages for different locations) than through time (based on year-to-year change at single locations). Here, we propose a theory of controls of ANPP based on four hypotheses about legacies of wet and dry years that explains space versus time differences in ANPP-precipitation relationships. We tested the hypotheses using 16 long-term series of ANPP. We found that legacies revealed by the association of current- versus previous-year conditions through the temporal series occur across all ecosystem types from deserts to mesic grasslands. Therefore, previous-year precipitation and ANPP control a significant fraction of current-year production. We developed unified models for the controls of ANPP through space and time. The relative importance of current-versus previous-year precipitation changes along a gradient of mean annual precipitation with the importance of current-year PPT decreasing, whereas the importance of previous-year PPT remains constant as mean annual precipitation increases. Finally, our results suggest that ANPP will respond to climate-change-driven alterations in water availability and, more importantly, that the magnitude of the response will increase with time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3135-3144
Number of pages10
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume367
Issue number1606
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 19 2012

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net primary production
primary production
primary productivity
synthesis
Ecosystem
Ecosystems
Climate Change
Association reactions
Production control
ecosystems
Climate change
water availability
space and time
deserts
Water
desert
grasslands
grassland
Availability
climate change

Keywords

  • Legacies
  • Precipitation effects
  • Primary production
  • Spatial and temporal models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

Legacies of precipitation fluctuations on primary production : Theory and data synthesis. / Sala, Osvaldo; Gherardi, Laureano A.; Reichmann, Lara; Jobbágy, Esteban; Peters, Debra.

In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 367, No. 1606, 19.11.2012, p. 3135-3144.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sala, Osvaldo ; Gherardi, Laureano A. ; Reichmann, Lara ; Jobbágy, Esteban ; Peters, Debra. / Legacies of precipitation fluctuations on primary production : Theory and data synthesis. In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2012 ; Vol. 367, No. 1606. pp. 3135-3144.
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