Skip to Main Content
Grassland to shrubland state transitions enhance carbon sequestration in the northern Chihuahuan DesertAuthor(s): M. D. Petrie; S. L. Collins; A. M. Swann; P. L. Ford; M. E. Litvak
Source: Global Change Biology. 21: 1226-1235.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
View PDF (2.44 MB)
Related Research Highlights
Climate Change Impacts on Future Carbon Stores and Management of Warm Deserts of the United States
DescriptionThe replacement of native C4-dominated grassland by C3-dominated shrubland is considered an ecological state transition where different ecological communities can exist under similar environmental conditions. These state transitions are occurring globally, and may be exacerbated by climate change. One consequence of the global increase in woody vegetation may be enhanced ecosystem carbon sequestration, although the responses of arid and semiarid ecosystems may be highly variable. During a drier than average period from 2007 to 2011 in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, we found established shrubland to sequester 49 g C m-2 yr-1 on average, while nearby native C4 grassland was a net source of 31 g C m-2 yr-1 over this same period. Differences in C exchange between these ecosystems were pronounced - grassland had similar productivity compared to shrubland but experienced higher C efflux via ecosystem respiration, while shrubland was a consistent C sink because of a longer growing season and lower ecosystem respiration. At daily timescales, rates of carbon exchange were more sensitive to soil moisture variation in grassland than shrubland, such that grassland had a net uptake of C when wet but lost C when dry. Thus, even under unfavorable, drier than average climate conditions, the state transition from grassland to shrubland resulted in a substantial increase in terrestrial C sequestration. These results illustrate the inherent tradeoffs in quantifying ecosystem services that result from ecological state transitions, such as shrub encroachment. In this case, the deleterious changes to ecosystem services often linked to grassland to shrubland state transitions may at least be partially offset by increased ecosystem carbon sequestration.
- You may send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request a hard copy of this publication.
- (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationPetrie, M. D.; Collins, S. L.; Swann, A. M.; Ford, P. L.; Litvak, M. E. 2015. Grassland to shrubland state transitions enhance carbon sequestration in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. Global Change Biology. 21: 1226-1235.
Keywordscarbon sequestration, Chihuahuan Desert, creosotebush shrubland, desert grassland, ecological state transition, ecosystem services
- Carbon dioxide and water vapor exchange in a warm temperate grassland
- Climatic variability, hydrologic anomaly, and methane emission can turn productive freshwater marshes into net carbon sources
- Model estimates of net primary productivity, evaportranspiration, and water use efficiency in the terrestrial ecosystems of the southern United States
XML: View XML