Paper on new insights on mechanisms driving post-drought recovery in perennial grasslands

Marie-Louise Schärer, Andreas Lüscher and Ansgar Kahmen published a new paper in New Phytologist. Their study explores the mechanisms underlying the outstanding capacity of perennial grasslands to recover from severe drought stress and to, in some cases, even show compensatory growth (i.e. higher biomass production of formerly drought-stressed grasses compared to well-watered controls) once drought stress is released. For this, a factorial field experiment was set up where perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) plants that were exposed to either a 2-month drought or to well-watered control conditions were transplanted into control and drought-stressed soil and rewetted thereafter. This approach enabled the team to disentangle plant-intrinsic and plant-extrinsic (soil) drought legacy effects on drought recovery and post-drought compensatory growth. The results of this study show that higher post-drought productivity of perennial grasslands recovering from drought relative to non-drought-stressed controls is induced by soil-mediated drought legacy effects, which improve plant N nutrition and photosynthetic capacity and that these effects countervail negative plant-intrinsic drought legacy effects on plant recovery.

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