The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES YOU MORE LIKELY TO DIE: ASSESSING VULNERABILITY TO GLOBAL CHANGE IN DRYLAND PLANT POPULATIONS

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Speaker: Scott Ferrenberg, New Mexico State University
 
Date:  Wednesday, April 24th, 2019
 
Time:  3:00-4:00 pm
 
Location:  ENR2, Room S107
 
Abstract: Drylands cover 41% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, play critical roles in ecosystem functioning at the global scale, and are home to over two billion people. Like other biomes, drylands face increasing pressure from global change. Given their often limited, variable precipitation regimes and low soil fertility, many drylands are inherently close to tipping points, which, if crossed, can lead to abrupt transitions to alternative states that may be difficult to reverse. Understanding the vulnerability to global change within and among foundational species is one potential pathway toward addressing potential state changes in these systems. In particular, understanding how specific traits and how trade-offs in allocation to competing vital functions will shape vulnerability of dryland plant species to global change drivers is an increasingly important goal. Within my lab, we address this goal across a diverse array of communities ranging from biological soil crusts and soil microbes to desert shrubs and conifers of semiarid forests. In my talk, I will discuss recent work with biocrusts which illustrated how traits that allow members of these soil communities to rapidly respond to infrequent and pulsed water availability, and that underpin their success in drylands, can become a key weakness in the face of a rapidly changing climate. I will then discuss an ongoing effort to build upon this lesson, where I have sought to understand how analogous levels of plasticity in climate-growth responses within conifers may affect their allocation to reproduction and defenses in a warmer, drier world where reduced growth and more frequent attacks by natural enemies are expected.
 

 
FLYER