Biomass, litter, and soil respiration along a precipitation gradient in southern Great Plains, USA

Xuhui Zhou, Melissa Talley, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Knowledge of how ecosystem carbon (C) processes respond to variations in precipitation is crucial for assessing impacts of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, we examined variations of shoot and root biomass, standing and surface litter, soil respiration, and soil C content along a natural precipitation gradient from 430 to 1200 mm in the southern Great Plains, USA. Our results show that shoot biomass and soil respiration increased linearly with mean annual precipitation (MAP), whereas root biomass and soil C content remained relatively constant along the precipitation gradient. Consequently, the root/shoot ratio linearly decreased with MAP. However, patterns of standing, surface, and total litter mass followed quadratic relationships with MAP along the gradient, likely resulting from counterbalance between litter production and decomposition. Those linear/quadratic equations describing variations of ecosystem C processes with precipitation could be useful for model development, parameterization, and validation at landscape and regional scales to improve predictions of C dynamics in grasslands in response to climate change. Our results indicated that precipitation is an important driver in shaping ecosystem functioning as reflected in vegetation production, litter mass, and soil respiration in grassland ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1369-1380
Number of pages12
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomass
  • Grassland
  • Litter mass
  • Precipitation gradient
  • Soil carbon
  • Soil respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Biomass, litter, and soil respiration along a precipitation gradient in southern Great Plains, USA'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this