Humans are creating significant global environmental change, including shifts in climate, increased nitrogen (N) deposition, and the facilitation of species invasions. A multi-factorial field experiment is being performed in an arid grassland within the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) to simulate increased nighttime temperature, higher N deposition, and heightened El Niño frequency (which increases winter precipitation by an average of 50%). The purpose of the experiment is to better understand the potential effects of environmental drivers on grassland community composition, aboveground net primary production and soil respiration. The focus is on the response of two dominant grasses (Bouteloua gracilis and B eriopoda), in an ecotone near their range margins and thus these species may be particularly susceptible to global environmental change.
It is hypothesized that warmer summer temperatures and increased evaporation will favor growth of black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda), a desert grass, but that increased winter precipitation and/or available nitrogen will favor the growth of blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), a shortgrass prairie species. Treatment effects on limiting resources (soil moisture, nitrogen availability, species abundance, and net primary production (NPP) are all being measured to determine the interactive effects of key global change drivers on arid grassland plant community dynamics and ecosystem processes.
On 4 August 2009 lightning ignited a ~3300 ha wildfire that burned through the experiment and its surroundings. Because desert grassland fires are patchy, not all of the replicate plots burned in the wildfire. Therefore, seven days after the wildfire was extinguished, the Sevilleta NWR Fire Crew thoroughly burned the remaining plots allowing us to assess experimentally the effects of interactions among multiple global change presses and a pulse disturbance on post-fire grassland dynamics.
This data set provides soil N availability in each plot of the warming experiment for the monsoon season (also see SEV176).
Our experimental design consists of three fully crossed factors (warming, increased winter precipitation, and N addition) in a completely randomized design, for a total of eight treatment combinations, with five replicates of each treatment combination, for a total of 40 plots. Each plot is 3 x 3.5 m. All plots contain B. eriopoda, B. gracilis and G. sarothrae. Our nighttime warming treatment is imposed using lightweight aluminum fabric shelters (mounted on rollers similar to a window shade) that are drawn across the warming plots each night to trap outgoing longwave radiation. The dataloggers controlling shelter movements are programmed to retract the shelters on nights when wind speeds exceed a threshold value (to prevent damage to shelters) and when rain is detected by a rain gauge or snow is detected by a leaf wetness sensor (to prevent an unintended rainout effect).
Each winter we impose an El Nino-like rainfall regime (50% increase over long-term average for non-El Nino years) using an irrigation system and RO water. El Nino rains are added in 6 experimental storm events that mimic actual El Nino winter-storm event size and frequency. From January-March, there are 4x5mm applications, 1x10mm application and 1x20mm application. For N deposition, we add 2.0 g m-2 y-1 of N in the form of NH4NO3 because NH4 and NO3 contribute approximately equally to N deposition at SNWR (57% NH4 and 43% NO3; Báez et al., 2007, J Arid Environments). The NH4NO3 is dissolved in 12 liters of deionized water, equivalent to a 1 mm rainfall event, and applied with a backpack sprayer prior to the summer monsoon. Control plots receive the same amount of deionized water.
Soil N is measured using Plant Root Simulator Probes (PRS® Probes, Western Ag Innovations, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada https://www.westernag.ca/innov).
Probes are installed in late June or early July prior to the monsoon season and removed in October each year.
Study Area Name: Warming site
Study Area Location: Within the Sevilleta, the site is located just Northeast of Deep Well meteorological station. The site can be reached by parking on the main road next to the signs for deep well and the minirhiztron study. Note that the road to Deep Well met station does not permit vehicles. Travel on foot towards deep well and look for a well-trod path off to the right shortly before the met station.
Vegetation: The vegetation is Chihuahuan Desert Grassland, dominated by black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda & B. gracilis).
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