The Monsoon Rainfall Manipulation Experiment (MRME) is designed to understand changes in ecosystem structure and function of a semiarid grassland caused by increased precipitation variability, by altering rainfall pulses, and thus soil moisture, that drive primary productivity, community composition, and ecosystem functioning. The overarching hypothesis being tested is that changes in event size and frequency will alter grassland productivity, ecosystem processes, and plant community dynamics. Treatments include (1) a monthly addition of 20 mm of rain in addition to ambient, and a weekly addition of 5 mm of rain in addition to ambient during the months of July, August and September. We predict that soil N availability with interact with rainfall event size to alter net primary productivity during the summer monsoon. Specifically, productivity will be higher on fertilized relative to control plots, and productivity will be highest on N addition plots in treatments with a small number of large events because these events infiltrate deeper and soil moisture is available longer following large compared to small events.
MRME contains three ambient precipitation plots and five replicates of the following treatments:
1) ambient plus a weekly addition of 5 mm rainfall, 2) ambient plus a monthly addition of 20 mm rainfall.
Rainfall is added during the monsoon season (July-Sept) by an overhead (7 m) system fitted with sprinkler heads that deliver rainfall quality droplets. At the end of the summer, each treatment has received the same total amount of added precipitation, delivered in different sized events.
Each plot (9x14 m) includes subplots (2x2 m) that receive 50 kg N ha-1 y-1. Each year we measure: (1) seasonal (July, August, September, and October) soil N, (2) plant species composition and ANPP, (3) annual belowground production in permanently located root ingrowth cores, and (4) soil temperature, moisture and CO2 fluxes (using in situ solid state CO2 sensors).
Soil Measurements: We use plant root simulator probes (PRS® Probes, Western Ag Innovations, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada https://www.westernag.ca/innov).
Instrumentation: Plant root simulator probes
On August 4th, 2009, lightning ignited a ~3300 ha wildfire that burned through the entire experiment and its surroundings allowing us to assess experimentally the effects of interactions among rainfall pulse dynamics and wildfire on post-fire grassland dynamics and ecosystem processes.
Data was not collected in 2011.
Additional Study Area Information
Study Area Name: Monsoon site
Study Area Location: Monsoon site is located just North of the grassland Drought plots
Vegetation: dominated by black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda), and other highly prevalent grasses include Sporabolus contractus, S.cryptandrus, S. lexuosus, Muhlenbergia aernicola and Bouteloua gracilis.