Sydney Maya Katz

and 2 more

Large-scale wildfires are increasing in frequency and are likely to become more severe under future Pacific Northwest climate scenarios. The effects of wildfires on soil organic carbon (SOC) remain difficult to estimate because soil heterogeneity limits generalizations. We mapped fired severity within the footprint of the Holiday Farm Fire (McKenzie River, Oregon, 2020) and sampled a burn severity gradient (unburned, low, high) in a detailed scheme to account for inter- and intra-site variation (20 soil profiles/half-hectare for burned sites, 9/hectare for unburned) at three depths (0-2 cm, 2-20 cm, 20-40 cm). We measured total SOC, mineral-associated organic carbon (MAOC), particulate organic carbon (POC), and pyrogenic carbon (PyC). We found significant SOC differences in the high severity fire in most carbon pools and depths, with the largest total SOC decrease of 6.48% (56% change) in 0-2 cm. Compared to unburned, the low severity site had higher MAOC (0-2 cm: +0.48%, 22% change; 2-20 cm: +0.28%, 17% change) and significantly lower POC (0-2 cm: -5.12%, 54% change; 2-20 cm: -1.73%, 48% change). We found lower PyC in burned sites, indicating combustion of this pool. SOC stocks at 0-20 cm were higher in low severity (total SOC: +7.45 kg/m2, 71% change; MAOC: +4.81 kg/m2, 153% change) compared to unburned. There was remarkable variation within each site, but the consistent high levels of MAOC in low severity area support prescribed burning as a technique to mitigate wildfire risk while limiting losses or increasing SOC compared to high severity fires.

Barbara Bomfim

and 8 more

This project aims to quantify the resiliency of prairie ecosystems in the U.S. Pacific Northwest (PNW) to climate change. Prairies in this region sustain over one million beef cows, and cow­-calf production costs are expected to increase to offset warming-induced plant productivity loss. We investigated the above- and belowground effects of experimental warming in prairie ecosystems by assessing biogeochemical controls on and patterns of asymbiotic nitrogen fixation (ANF), plant species diversity, and legume cover to address a major challenge for sustainable agriculture in the region. We hypothesize that the effect of warming on prairie functional diversity increases soil asymbiotic nitrogen inputs by decreasing legume cover and soil nitrogen availability. We quantified the effects of decadal warming stress (+2.5ºC) on soil biogeochemical properties and plant species and functional diversity during fall and spring seasons in three sites along a 520­km latitudinal gradient—from central Washington to southern Oregon—representing a drought severity gradient. At each site, we collected composite soil samples from five co-­located prairie plots under control (ambient) and warming conditions. We incubated these soils using 15N-labeled dinitrogen (15N2), and quantified total soil carbon­, total and available nitrogen, and available phosphorus and iron pools to better understand the underlying mechanisms governing warming-­induced changes in ANF. We used a point intercept technique to survey plot-level plant community composition and calculate Shannon’s diversity index and percent cover of legumes (members of Fabaceae according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System). Warming significantly decreased plant species diversity which also decreased along the drought severity gradient. Legume cover significantly increased from 3.1% in the north to 9.2% in the south. ANF response to warming varied by season and site, where rates increased with the drought severity gradient in the fall but decreased during the spring. Total soil inorganic nitrogen availability was the strongest predictor of ANF response to warming in the spring but not in the fall. Our study highlights the importance of using soil-plant-atmosphere interactions to assess prairie ecosystem resilience to climate change in the PNW.

Barbara Bomfim

and 3 more

Background/Question/Methods This project attempts to quantify the resilience of prairie ecosystems to climate change in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). In this region, prairie ecosystems currently sustain ~1.3 million beef cows and calf production costs are expected to increase to offset drought-induced plant productivity loss. Here, we investigate patterns of asymbiotic nitrogen fixation (ANF) and biogeochemical controls, that also influence plant community composition and prairie productivity, under experimental drought to address a major challenge for sustainable agriculture in the region. We hypothesize that the effect of drought on prairie vegetation cover increases soil asymbiotic N inputs by diminishing the dominance of symbiotic root-fungal networks. To test this hypothesis, we quantified the impacts of decadal drought stress on soil ANF using 15N-labeled dinitrogen (15N2) incubations of soils from high- and low-diversity prairies across a 520-km latitudinal gradient (i.e., southern Oregon-SOR, central Oregon-COR, and central Washington-CWA) representing increasingly severe Mediterranean conditions. We also quantified total soil organic carbon-C, total, and available N, and available phosphorus-P and iron-Fe pools to better understand underlying mechanisms governing drought-induced changes in ANF. At each site, composite soil samples (n = 3) were collected from five co-located high- and low-diversity prairie plots under control (ambient) and drought (-40% precipitation) conditions. Results/Conclusions We found that soil ANF response to drought increased with the PNW Mediterranean drought intensity gradient; while ANF rates increased nearly two-fold in the southernmost site (SOR), a significant decrease in ANF was verified in the northernmost site (CWA). ANF response to drought also varied depending on plant diversity, where low-diversity prairies had a more predictable response to drought than high-diversity prairies. For instance, ANF in SOR high-diversity prairies was suppressed but no change was verified in COR high diversity prairies. Soil C and N contents were generally higher in high-diversity prairies whereas treatment had no significant effect across sites. Soil P availability, also affected by drought, and pH were the most important variables explaining ANF variability across vegetation types and sites. Based on our findings, low-diversity prairies in central WA may be those most severely impacted by increased climate change-induced drought stress. Our study highlights the importance of using soil-plant-atmosphere interactions to assess prairie ecosystem resilience to drought in the PNW.