New paper on the effects of recurrent summer droughts and snow manipulation on biomass production in alpine grassland

Patrick Möhl, Maria Vorkauf, Ansgar Kahmen and Erika Hiltbrunner published a new paper in Journal of Ecology. The paper represents a condensed piece of the longer-term research at the Bidmer Plateau at 2500 m asl.

Snow manipulations shifted snowmelt dates by on average 13 days but did not affect annual growth (peak biomass) above- nor below-ground. Recurrent summer drought (5- or 10-week duration) reduced total annual above-ground biomass and the decline in biomass was accountable to high drought sensitivity of biomass production in a few forb and graminoid species. In contrast the biomass production of the dominant sedge Carex curvula was not affected by the drought whose proportion of total plant cover increased from 36% in controls to 48% in 10-week drought. These results suggest that more frequent drought in the future will affect species abundance in alpine grasslands. Below-ground biomass slightly increased under drought (5-week treatment) resulting in a higher root mass fraction (both drought treatments), stressing the importance of belowground plant biomass for plant functioning at high elevation.

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