Wintertime grassland dynamics may influence belowground biomass under climate change: a model analysis

Katata, Genki; Grote, Rüdiger; Mauder, Matthias; Zeeman, Matthias J.; Ota, Masakazu

Rising temperatures and changes in snow cover, as can be expected under a warmer global climate, may have large impacts on mountain grassland productivity limited by cold and long winters. Here, we combined two existing models, the multi-layer atmosphere-SOiL-VEGetation model (SOLVEG) and the BASic GRAssland model (BASGRA), which accounts for snow, freeze–thaw events, grass growth, and soil carbon balance. The model was applied to simulate the responses of managed grasslands to anomalously warm winter conditions. The grass growth module considered key ecological processes under a cold environment, such as leaf formation, elongation and death, tillering, carbon allocation, and cold acclimation, in terms of photosynthetic activity. Input parameters were derived for two pre-Alpine grassland sites in Germany, for which the model was run using 3 years of data that included a winter with an exceptionally small amount of snow. The model reproduced the temporal variability of observed daily mean heat fluxes, soil temperatures, and snow depth throughout the study period. High physiological activity levels during the extremely warm winter led to a simulated inline-formulaCO2 uptake of 100 gC minline-formula−2, which was mainly allocated into the belowground biomass and only to a minor extent used for additional plant growth during early spring. If these temporary dynamics are representative of long-term changes, this process, which is so far largely unaccounted for in scenario analysis using global terrestrial biosphere models, may lead to carbon accumulation in the soil and/or carbon loss from the soil as a response to global warming.

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Katata, Genki / Grote, Rüdiger / Mauder, Matthias / et al: Wintertime grassland dynamics may influence belowground biomass under climate change: a model analysis. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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