Data associated with "The importance of extreme rainfall events and their timing in a semi-arid grassland"

Post, Alison
Knapp, Alan
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Climate change is intensifying the hydrologic cycle globally, increasing both the size and frequency of extreme precipitation events, or deluges. Arid and semi-arid ecosystems are expected to be particularly responsive to this change because their ecological processes are largely driven by distinct soil moisture pulses. However, since soil moisture, air temperature, and plant phenology vary throughout the growing season, deluges will likely have differing impacts on these systems depending on when they occur. We conducted a field experiment to assess how the seasonal timing (early, middle, or late growing season) of a single deluge (70 mm precipitation event) altered key ecological processes in the semi-arid shortgrass steppe of North America. Regardless of timing, a single deluge stimulated most ecosystem processes, but a deluge at mid-season caused the greatest increase in soil respiration, canopy greenness, aboveground net primary production (ANPP), and growth and flowering of the dominant plant species (Bouteloua gracilis). In contrast, belowground net primary production (BNPP) was insensitive to deluge timing, with a consistent BNPP increase in all the deluge treatments that was almost twice as large as the ANPP response. This BNPP response was largely driven by enhanced root production at 10-20 cm, rather than 0-10 cm, soil depths. In a semi-arid ecosystem, a single deluge can have season-long impacts on many ecosystem processes, but responses can be mediated by event timing. Therefore, predicting responses of semi-arid ecosystems to more dynamic precipitation regimes, and subsequent impacts on the global carbon budget, will require knowledge of how deluge magnitude, frequency, and timing are being altered by climate change.
These data are from an experimental field study that assessed the impact of deluge events and their timing on various ecological processes in the shortgrass steppe of Northeastern Colorado. The experiment period was the 2017 growing season (May - Sept). Included are the following datasets: Precipitation, air temperature, soil moisture, soil respiration, ANPP, BNPP, canopy greenness, plot species composition, B. gracilis leaf length, B. gracilis flowering, B. gracilis water potential.
Department of Biology
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Rights Access
Net Primary Production
Climate change
Precipitation extremes
Soil respiration
Seasonal timing
Shortgrass steppe
Associated Publications
Post, A.K. & Knapp, A.K. (2020). The importance of extreme rainfall events and their timing in a semi-arid ecosystem. Journal of Ecology.