Effects of precipitation changes on aboveground net primary production and soil respiration in a switchgrass field

Qi Deng, Sadiye Aras, Chih Li Yu, E. Kudjo Dzantor, Philip A. Fay, Yiqi Luo, Weijun Shen, Dafeng Hui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is widely selected as a model feedstock for sustainable replacement of fossil fuels and climate change mitigation. However, how climate changes, such as altered precipitation (PPT), will influence switchgrass growth and soil carbon storage potential have not been well investigated. We conducted a two-year PPT manipulation experiment with five treatments: −50%, −33%, +0%, +33%, and +50% of ambient PPT, in an “Alamo” switchgrass field in Nashville, TN. Switchgrass aboveground net primary production (ANPP), leaf gas exchange, and soil respiration (SR) were determined each growing season. Data collected from this study was then used to test whether switchgrass ANPP responds to PPT changes in a double asymmetry pattern as framed by Knapp et al. (2017), and whether it is held true for other ecosystem processes such as SR. Results showed that the wet (+33%, and +50%) treatments had little effects on ANPP and leaf gas exchange compared to the ambient precipitation treatment, regardless of fertilization or not. The −33% treatment did not change ANPP and leaf photosynthesis, but significantly decreased transpiration and enhanced water use efficiency (WUE). Only the −50% treatment significantly decreased ANPP and LAI, without changing leaf photosynthesis. SR generally decreased under the drought treatments and increased under the wet treatments, while there was no significant difference between the two drought treatments or between the two wet treatments. Our results demonstrate that switchgrass ANPP responded in a single negative asymmetry model to PPT changes probably due to relative high PPT in the region. However, even in such a mesic ecosystem, SR responded strongly to PPT changes in an “S” curve model, suggesting that future climate changes may have greater but more complex effects on switchgrass belowground than aboveground processes. The contrasting models for switchgrass ANPP and SR in response to PPT indicate that extreme wet or dry PPT conditions may shift ecosystem from carbon accumulation toward debt, and in turn provide government and policy makers with useful information for sustainable management of switchgrass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-37
Number of pages9
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Aboveground net primary production
  • Bioenergy crop
  • Leaf gas exchange
  • Panicum virgatum
  • Precipitation change
  • Soil respiration
  • Switchgrass
  • Water use efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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