Desert Plants in a Warming World of More Variable Precipitation
Salguero-Gomez, R., Siewert, W., Casper, B.B. and Tielborger, K. 2012. A demographic approach to study effects of climate change in desert plants. Philosophical Transactions of the royal Society B 367: 3100-3114.
To further explore this potentiality, Salguero-Gomez et al., as they describe it, "provide an overview of how variable precipitation affects perennial and annual desert plants," after which they "implement an innovative, mechanistic approach to examine the effects of precipitation on populations of two desert plant species," which approach "couples robust climatic projections, including variable precipitation, with stochastic, stage-structured models constructed from long-term demographic data sets of the short-lived Cryptantha flava in the Colorado Plateau Desert (USA) and the annual Carrichtera annua in the Negev Desert (Israel)."
The four researchers say they found "a surprising pattern of increased population growth for both study species when [they] compared population dynamics in the future to current conditions, consistent with increasing precipitation in Utah, USA, and despite decreasing precipitation in Israel." And they thus state that their findings (1) demonstrate C. flava's improved demographic performance in wetter years and (2) highlight the potential of the annual C. annua to buffer the stochasticity of drier years via its seed bank.
Salguero-Gomez et al. say their study "contributes two notable exceptions to the accepted view that short-lived species, regardless of habitat, are particularly vulnerable to climate change," emphasizing that their findings "challenge the commonly held perception based on correlative approaches (e.g. bioclimatic envelope approaches) suggesting that desert organisms may be particularly vulnerable to climate change."
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