Professor’s choices: Environmental Sciences (2023-2024)

Selected articles and books chosen by U.S. college/university professors for use in class and research during the 2023-2024 academic year:

*Huang, Y., Stein, G., Kolle, O., Kübler, K., Schulze, E., Dong, H., Eichenberg, D., Gleixner, G., Hildebrandt, A., Lange, M., Roscher, C., Schielzeth, H., Schmid, B., Weigelt, A., Weisser, W. W., Shadaydeh, M., Denzler, J., Ebeling, A., & Eisenhauer, N. (2024). Enhanced stability of grassland soil temperature by plant diversity. Nature Geoscience, 17(1), 44-50. [Cited by]

Extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, and research has shown that plant diversity can help mitigate the impacts of climate change by increasing plant productivity and ecosystem stability. Although soil temperature and its stability are key determinants of essential ecosystem processes, no study has yet investigated whether plant diversity buffers soil temperature fluctuations over long-term community development. Here we have conducted a comprehensive analysis of a continuous 18-year dataset from a grassland biodiversity experiment with high spatial and temporal resolutions. Our findings reveal that plant diversity acts as a natural buffer, preventing soil heating in hot weather and cooling in cold weather. This diversity effect persists year-round, intensifying with the aging of experimental communities and being even stronger under extreme climate conditions, such as hot days or dry years. Using structural equation modelling, we found that plant diversity stabilizes soil temperature by increasing soil organic carbon concentrations and, to a lesser extent, plant leaf area index. Our results suggest that, in lowland grasslands, the diversity-induced stabilization of soil temperature may help to mitigate the negative effects of extreme climatic events such as soil carbon decomposition, thus slowing global warming.”

*Prein, A. F. (2023). Thunderstorm straight line winds intensify with climate change. Nature Climate Change, 13(12), 1353-1359.  [Cited by]

“Straight line winds (SLWs), or non-tornadic thunderstorm winds, are causing widespread damage in many regions around the world. These powerful gusts are associated with strong downdraughts in thunderstorms, rear inflow jets and mesovortices. Despite their significance, our understanding of climate change effects on SLWs remains limited. Here, focusing on the central USA, a global hot spot for SLWs, I use observations, high-resolution modelling and theoretical considerations to show that SLWs have intensified over the past 40 years. Theoretical considerations suggest that SLWs should intensify at a rate of ~7.5% °C−1, yet the observed rates show a more pronounced increase of ~13% °C−1. The simulation results indicate a 4.8 ± 1.2-fold increase in the geographical extent affected by SLWs during the study period. These findings underscore the importance of incorporating intensifying SLWs into climate change adaptation planning to ensure the development of resilient future infrastructure.”

*Sáez-Sandino, T., García-Palacios, P., Maestre, F. T., Plaza, C., Guirado, E., Singh, B. K., Wang, J., Cano-Díaz, C., Eisenhauer, N., Gallardo, A., & Delgado-Baquerizo, M. (2023). The soil microbiome governs the response of microbial respiration to warming across the globe. Nature Climate Change, 13(12), 1382-1387. [Cited by]

“The sensitivity of soil microbial respiration to warming (Q10) remains a major source of uncertainty surrounding the projections of soil carbon emissions to the atmosphere as the factors driving Q10 patterns across ecosystems have been assessed in isolation from each other. Here we report the results of a warming experiment using soils from 332 sites across all continents and major biomes to simultaneously evaluate the main drivers of global Q10 patterns. Compared with biochemical recalcitrance, mineral protection, substrate quantity and environmental factors, the soil microbiome (that is, microbial biomass and bacterial taxa) explained the largest portion of variation in Q10 values. Our work provides solid evidence that soil microbiomes largely govern the responses of soil heterotrophic respiration to warming and thus need to be explicitly accounted for when assessing land carbon–climate feedbacks.”

*Yamaguchi, D. K. (1991). A simple method for cross-dating increment cores from living trees. Canadian Journal of Forest Research., 21(3), 414-416. [Cited by]

“For many types of forest studies, it is essential to identify the exact years of formation of annual rings in increment cores taken from living trees. To accomplish this, dendrochronologists employ cross dating, which involves both ring counting and ring-width pattern matching, to ensure against counting error, or errors, caused by missing or false rings. To date, published accounts of the cross-dating process generally describe a graphical method for achieving cross dating, known as skeleton plotting. However, when working with cores from living trees, skeleton plotting is seldom necessary. Such cores can commonly be cross-dated more quickly and easily by listing the narrow rings that are present in each core in a laboratory notebook and then comparing core notes for shared narrow rings. The latter approach permits faster recognition of ring-width patterns because calendar-year, rather than relative-year, dates are assigned to rings in cores. It also allows cross-dating records to be stored in a more concise manner.”

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