Hartmann H.,Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
Global Change Biology | Year: 2011
Trees are exceptional organisms that have evolved over some 385 million years and have overtaken other plants in order to harvest light first. However, this advantage comes with a cost: trees must transport water all the way up to their crowns and inherent physical limitations make them vulnerable to water deficits. Because climate change scenarios predict more frequent extreme drought events, trees will increasingly need to cope with water stress. Recent occurrences of climate change-type droughts have had severe impacts on several forest ecosystems. Initial experimental studies have been undertaken and show that stomatal control of water loss hinders carbon assimilation and could lead to starvation during droughts. Other mechanisms of drought-induced mortality are catastrophic xylem dysfunction, impeded long-distance transport of carbohydrates (translocation) and also symplastic failure (cellular breakdown). However, direct empirical support is absent for either hypothesis. More experimental studies are necessary to increase our understanding of these processes and to resolve the mystery of drought-related tree mortality. Instead of testing the validity of particular hypothesis as mechanisms of drought-induced tree mortality, future research should aim at revealing the temporal dynamics of these mechanisms in different species and over a gradient of environmental conditions. Only such studies will reveal whether the struggle for light will become a struggle for water and/or for carbon in drought-affected areas. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Schulze E.D.,Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2014
The following overview summarizes observational and experimental approaches to study plant and ecosystem processes, starting from physiological mechanisms up to continental carbon balances mainly based on Eurosiberian data. It is shown that different observational scales are needed to interpret and predict phenomena at various resolutions and that observational studies cannot replace controlled experiments. Both sources are essential. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Asner G.P.,Carnegie Institution |
Levick S.R.,Carnegie Institution |
Levick S.R.,Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
Ecology Letters | Year: 2012
Herbivores cause treefalls in African savannas, but rates are unknown at large scales required to forecast changes in biodiversity and ecosystem processes. We combined landscape-scale herbivore exclosures with repeat airborne Light Detection and Ranging of 58 429 trees in Kruger National Park, South Africa, to assess sources of savanna treefall across nested gradients of climate, topography, and soil fertility. Elephants were revealed as the primary agent of treefall across widely varying savanna conditions, and a large-scale 'elephant trap' predominantly removes maturing savanna trees in the 5-9 m height range. Treefall rates averaged 6 times higher in areas accessible to elephants, but proportionally more treefall occurred on high-nutrient basalts and in lowland catena areas. These patterns were superimposed on a climate-mediated regime of increasing treefall with precipitation in the absence of herbivores. These landscape-scale patterns reveal environmental controls underpinning herbivore-mediated tree turnover, highlighting the need for context-dependent science and management. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS.
Gleixner G.,Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
Ecological Research | Year: 2013
Current attempts to explain the persistence of carbon in soils focuses on explanations such as the recalcitrant plant residues and the physical isolation of substrates from decomposers. A pool of organic matter that can persist for centuries to millennia is hypothesized because of the evidence provided by the persistence of pre-disturbance C in fallow or vegetation change experiments, and the radiocarbon age of soil carbon. However, new information, which became available through advances in the ability to measure the isotope signatures of specific compounds, favors a new picture of organic matter dynamics. Instead of persistence of plant-derived residues like lignin in the soil, the majority of mineral soil is in molecules derived from microbial synthesis. Carbon recycled multiple times through the microbial community can be old, decoupling the radiocarbon age of C atoms from the chemical or biological lability of the molecules they comprise. In consequence is soil microbiology, a major control on soil carbon dynamics, which highlights the potential vulnerability of soil organic matter to changing environmental conditions. Moreover, it emphasizes the need to devise new management options to restore, increase, and secure this valuable resource. © 2013 The Author(s).
Sierra C.A.,Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
Biogeochemistry | Year: 2012
Previous theoretical analyses based on Arrhenius kinetics and thermodynamics have shown that the temperature sensitivity of low-quality substrate is higher than that of high-quality substrate. Because soils store large amounts of low-quality carbon, understanding its response to increasing temperatures will help to predict the response of atmospheric CO 2 to climate change. However, empirical studies do not provide conclusive evidence to corroborate this theoretical argument. Although there are various possible reasons for this disagreement, the theory behind this argument has not been scrutinized carefully. Based on a simple mathematical analysis of the Arrhenius equation it is shown here that low-quality substrates are less temperature sensitive when analyzed in absolute rather than in relative terms, a result that may seem counterintuitive to previous theory. However, this is a paradox intrinsic to the Arrhenius equation and it is often ignored within the 'quality-temperature' debate. In fact, different measures commonly used to analyze the temperature sensitivity of different substrates can provide apparently different and contradictory results even though they are based on the same basic principles. Distinguishing between absolute and relative measures of sensitivity is essential for understanding the sensitivity of respiration to environmental change. An analysis of the available empirical evidence on this topic shows that most studies actually agree with the Arrhenius and thermodynamics theory, with less disagreement than previously thought. To address some of the issues identified here, a formal theoretical framework is proposed to study the sensitivity of respiration rates with respect to changes in multiple drivers of decomposition. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.