Energy flow and the “grassification” of desert shrublands

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences



In our directionally and continuously changing world, history still matters, and it does so in increasingly novel and important ways. Human adaptation to global change will rely heavily on robust baselines of historic environmental variability and detailed understanding of how both past and modern ecosystems have responded to both individual and multiple stressors. The question of global change has motivated an upsurge in paleoecological studies that span the late Quaternary and the modern era, and has inspired a growing consideration of time as a fundamental axis in ecology (1). A major challenge in developing pertinent ecological baselines remains how to fuse, into continuous time series, observations and experiments from living systems with paleoecological reconstructions from the same sites (23). Tracing and disentangling complex responses to environmental stress from paleological to present-day communities is especially daunting; for example, how climate change; accelerated land use; and biological invasions are influencing the flows of water, nutrients, and energy. The paper by Terry and Rowe in PNAS (4) is a shining example of how modern ecology and paleoecology can be spliced together to decipher how ecological processes unfold over time scales inaccessible to direct observation or experimentation, and how they can be disrupted by human impacts.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Energy flow and the “grassification” of desert shrublands
Series title Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1512078112
Volume 112
Issue 31
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 2 p.
First page 9504
Last page 9505
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N