Climate-driven shifts in soil temperature and moisture regimes suggest opportunities to enhance assessments of dryland resilience and resistance

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 

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Abstract

Assessing landscape patterns in climate vulnerability, as well as resilience and resistance to drought, disturbance, and invasive species, requires appropriate metrics of relevant environmental conditions. In dryland systems of western North America, soil temperature and moisture regimes have been widely utilized as an indicator of resilience to disturbance and resistance to invasive plant species by providing integrative indicators of long-term site aridity, which relates to ecosystem recovery potential and climatic suitability to invaders. However, the impact of climate change on these regimes, and the suitability of the indicator for estimating resistance and resilience in the context of climate change have not been assessed. Here we utilized a daily time-step, process-based, ecosystem water balance model to characterize current and future patterns in soil temperature and moisture conditions in dryland areas of western North America, and evaluate the impact of these changes on estimation of resilience and resistance. Soil temperature increases in the twenty-first century are substantial, relatively uniform geographically, and robust across climate models. Higher temperatures will expand the areas of mesic and thermic soil temperature regimes while decreasing the area of cryic and frigid temperature conditions. Projections for future precipitation are more variable both geographically and among climate models. Nevertheless, future soil moisture conditions are relatively consistent across climate models for much of the region. Projections of drier soils are expected in most of Arizona and New Mexico, as well as the central and southern U.S. Great Plains. By contrast, areas with projections of increasing soil moisture include northeastern Montana, southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, and many areas dominated by big sagebrush, particularly the Central and Northern Basin and Range and the Wyoming Basin ecoregions. In addition, many areas dominated by big sagebrush are expected to experience pronounced shifts toward cool season moisture, which will create more area with xeric moisture conditions and less area with ustic conditions. In addition to indicating widespread geographic shifts in the distribution of soil temperature and moisture regimes, our results suggest opportunities for enhancing the integration of these conditions into a quantitative framework for assessing climate change impacts on dryland ecosystem resilience and resistance that is responsive to long-term projections.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Climate-driven shifts in soil temperature and moisture regimes suggest opportunities to enhance assessments of dryland resilience and resistance
Series title Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.3389/fevo.2019.00358
Volume 7
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Frontiers Media, Inc.
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 358, 16 p.
Country Canada, United States
State Alberta, Arizona, British Columbia, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming