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Ecology of the Shortgrass SteppeA Long-Term Perspective$
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W. K. Lauenroth and I. C. Burke

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195135824

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195135824.001.0001

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Net Primary Production in the Shortgrass Steppe

Net Primary Production in the Shortgrass Steppe

(p.270) 12 Net Primary Production in the Shortgrass Steppe
Ecology of the Shortgrass Steppe

William K. Lauenroth

Daniel G. Milchunas

Oxford University Press

Net primary production (NPP), the amount of carbon or energy fixed by green plants in excess of their respiratory needs, is the fundamental quantity upon which all heterotrophs and the ecosystem processes they are associated with depend. Understanding NPP is therefore a prerequisite to understanding ecosystem dynamics. Our objectives for this chapter are to describe the current state of our knowledge about the temporal and spatial patterns of NPP in the shortgrass steppe, to evaluate the important variables that control NPP, and to discuss the future of NPP in the shortgrass steppe given current hypotheses about global change. Most of the data available for NPP in the shortgrass steppe are for aboveground net primary production (ANPP), so most of our presentation will focus on ANPP and we will deal with belowground net primary production (BNPP) as a separate topic. Furthermore, our treatment of NPP in this chapter will ignore the effects of herbivory, which will be covered in detail in chapter 16. Our approach will be to start with a regional-scale view of ANPP in shortgrass ecosystems and work toward a site-scale view. We will begin by briefly placing ANPP in the shortgrass steppe in its larger context of the central North American grassland region. We will then describe the regional-scale patterns and controls on ANPP, and then move to the site-scale patterns and controls on ANPP. At the site scale, we will describe both temporal and spatial dynamics, and controls on ANPP as well as BNPP. We will then discuss relationships between spatial and temporal patterns in ANPP and end the chapter with a short, speculative section on how future global change may influence NPP in the shortgrass steppe. Temperate grasslands in central North America are found over a range of mean annual precipitation from 200 to 1200 mm.y–1 and mean annual temperatures from 0 to 20 oC (Lauenroth et al., 1999). The widely cited relationship between mean annual precipitation and average annual ANPP allows us to convert the precipitation gradient into a production gradient (Lauenroth, 1979; Lauenroth et al., 1999; Noy-Meir, 1973; Rutherford, 1980; Sala et al., 1988b).

Keywords:   Belowground biomass, Carbon isotope labeling, Evaporation, IBP Grassland Biome project, Leaf area index, Mean annual precipitation, Swales, Winter wheat

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