Intermediate coupling between aboveground and belowground biomass maximises the persistence of grasslands

  • Aboveground and belowground biomass compartments of vegetation fulfil different functions and they are coupled by complex interactions. These compartments exchange water, carbon and nutrients and the belowground biomass compartment has the capacity to buffer vegetation dynamics when aboveground biomass is removed by disturbances such as herbivory or fire. However, despite their importance, root-shoot interactions are often ignored in more heuristic vegetation models. Here, we present a simple two-compartment grassland model that couples aboveground and belowground biomass. In this model, the growth of belowground biomass is influenced by aboveground biomass and the growth of aboveground biomass is influenced by belowground biomass. We used the model to explore how the dynamics of a grassland ecosystem are influenced by fire and grazing. We show that the grassland system is most persistent at intermediate levels of aboveground-belowground coupling. In this situation, the system can sustain more extreme fire or grazing regimes than in the case of strong coupling. In contrast, the productivity of the system is maximised at high levels of coupling. Our analysis suggests that the yield of a grassland ecosystem is maximised when coupling is strong, however, the intensity of disturbance that can be sustained increases dramatically when coupling is intermediate. Hence, the model predicts that intermediate coupling should be selected for as it maximises the chances of persistence in disturbance driven ecosystems.

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Author:Simon ScheiterORCiDGND, Steven Ian Higgins
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):PLoS One
Publisher:PLoS [u.a.]
Place of publication:Lawrence, Kan.
Document Type:Article
Date of first Publication:2013/04/29
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2013/05/03
Issue:(4): e61149
Page Number:10
Copyright: © 2013 Scheiter, Higgins. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Institutes:Angeschlossene und kooperierende Institutionen / Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft
Fachübergreifende Einrichtungen / Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum (BiK-F)
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Sammlung Biologie / Sondersammelgebiets-Volltexte
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 3.0