Ecosystem Carbon Fluxes in Response to Warming and Clipping in a Tallgrass Prairie

Shuli Niu, Rebecca A. Sherry, Xuhui Zhou, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Global warming and land-use change could have profound impacts on ecosystem carbon (C) fluxes, with consequent changes in C sequestration and its feedback to climate change. However, it is not well understood how net ecosystem C exchange (NEE) and its components respond to warming and mowing in tallgrass prairie. We conducted two warming experiments, one long term with a 1.7°C increase in a C4-dominated grassland (Experiment 1), and one short term with a 2.8°C increase in a C3-dominated grassland (Experiment 2), to investigate main and interactive effects of warming and clipping on ecosystem C fluxes in the Great Plains of North America during 2009-2011. An infrared radiator was used to simulate climate warming and clipping once a year mimicked mowing in both experiments. The results showed that warming significantly increased ecosystem respiration (ER), slightly increased GPP, with the net outcome (NEE) being little changed in Experiment 1. In contrast, warming significantly suppressed GPP and ER in both years, with the net outcome being enhanced in NEE (more C sequestration) in 2009-2010 in Experiment 2. The C4-dominated grassland showed a much higher optimum temperature for C fluxes than the C3-dominated grassland, which may partly contribute to the different warming effects in the two experiments. Clipping significantly enhanced GPP, ER, and NEE in both experiments but did not significantly interact with warming in impacting C fluxes in either experiment. The warming-induced changes in ecosystem C fluxes correlated significantly with C4 biomass proportion but not with warming-induced changes in either soil temperature or soil moisture across the plots in the experiments. Our results demonstrate that carbon fluxes in the tallgrass prairie are highly sensitive to climate warming and clipping, and C3/C4 plant functional types may be important factor in determining ecosystem response to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)948-961
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • C
  • C
  • biofuel harvest
  • carbon fluxes
  • carbon sequestration
  • climate warming
  • feedback
  • optimum temperature
  • plant functional types

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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