Root Biomass Dynamics Under Experimental Warming and Doubled Precipitation in a Tallgrass Prairie

Xuhui Zhou, Shenfeng Fei, Rebecca Sherry, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Human-induced climate change is expected to increase both the frequency and severity of extreme climate events, but their ecological impacts on root dynamics are poorly understood. We conducted a 1-year pulse warming and precipitation experiment in a tallgrass prairie in Oklahoma, USA to examine responses of root dynamics. We collected data in the pre-treatment year of 2002, imposed four treatments (control, 4°C warming, doubled precipitation, and warming plus doubled precipitation) in 2003, and observed post-treatment effects in 2004. Root biomass dynamics (for example, root growth and death) were measured using sequential coring and ingrowth coring methods. Treatment effects were not significant on standing root biomass in 2003, although root growth rate was significantly higher in the warmed than control plots. However, in the post-treatment year, the warmed plots had significantly lower standing root biomass than the controls, likely resulting from increased root death rate. Root death rate was significantly lower in the doubled precipitation and warmed plus doubled precipitation plots than that in the warmed plots in 2004. The root:shoot ratio showed similar responses to the post-treatments as standing root biomass, whereas aboveground biomass changed relatively little, indicating that roots were more sensitive to lagged effects than aboveground biomass. Our results demonstrate that root growth and death rates are highly sensitive to extreme climate events and lagged effects of extreme climate on root dynamics are important in assessing terrestrial carbon-cycle feedbacks to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-554
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • drought
  • extreme climate
  • global change
  • grassland
  • growth
  • heat
  • mortality
  • root biomass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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