Climate Change Ecology

How elevated CO2 affects grassland

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Science  14 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6211, pp. 823-824
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6211.823-c

Experiment site in a mixed-grass prairie near Cheyenne, Wyoming.

PHOTO: JULIE KRAY/USDA ARS IN FORT COLLINS

Even after two decades, experiments to study the ecological effects of climate change continue to yield instructive results. Zelikova et al. studied the effects of elevated CO2 on grassland in in Wyoming over 8 years and found that the plant productivity stabilized over time. The abundance of two dominant plant species (western wheat grass and blue grama grass) decreased with elevated CO2, which led to the increased presence of subdominant species and hence greater evenness in community composition. Plant productivity stabilized as a result of such alterations community structure. This research highlights the potential for plant communities to change in the face of changing climates.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 111, 15456 (2014).

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