Experimentally Simulating Climate Change Effects on Trophic Interactions in Montane Meadow Systems
Diane Debinski1, Matthew Germino2 and Jill Sherwood1
1Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
2USGS Forest and Range Ecosystem Science Center, Boise Idaho
Brief Description of Aims
Increasing evidence predicts that global climatic patterns are changing rapidly as a result of anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases, including CO2. Montane systems are some of the regions of the globe that may be most sensitive to climate change. Montane meadows are especially diverse and productive with respect to their plant communities and as such they are important food sources for a diversity of herbivores, including insects to large mammals. Temperature increases associated with climate change will likely lead to a decrease in the duration of snow cover in montane meadows and this change could have a significant effect on the ecology of the systems. Ecological effects could include advancement of spring events, shifts in species distribution patterns, and phenological changes (timing of life-history patterns such as emergence, maturity, or reproduction). Reproductive asynchrony, a phenological condition where males and females mature at different times and have a reduced opportunity to find each other and mate, is another potential effect of climate change. Observational studies of climate change responses under field conditions can require decades of research. However, experimental field manipulations can provide a window of understanding into how larger-scale climate change effects may become manifested.
The objectives of this research are to experimentally simulate predicted warmer temperatures and earlier snowmelt in a high elevation montane meadow ecosystem and to assess changes in:
- soil temperature and moisture
- timing of plant emergence, flowering, and senescence
- developmental and reproductive responses of a butterfly species, Parnassius clodius, which is dependent upon the plants in this meadow for host plants (Dicentra uniflora) and nectar sources (Eriogonium umbellatum).
Experimental sites: Twelve experimental plots were established in 2010 (3 of each of four treatments). An additional twelve plots were added in 2011
The Clodious Parnassian butterfly (photo by D. Debinki)
Snow removal + warming treatment (SR and H+) showing open-sided warming chamber in foreground, control plot in background. An average of 68 cm of snow was removed from snow removal sites in 2011.
References of interest
Auckland, J.N., D.M. Debinski and W.R. Clark. 2004. Survival, movement and resource use of the butterfly Parnassius clodius. Ecological Entomology 29:139-149.
Calabrese, J.M. L. Ries, S.F. Matter, D.M. Debinski, J.N. Auckland, J. Roland, and W.F. Fagan. 2008. Reproductive asynchrony in natural butterfly populations and its consequences for female matelessness. Journal of Animal Ecology. 77: 746-756
Debinski, D.M., M. E. Jakubauskas, and K. Kindscher. 2000. Montane meadows as indicators of environmental change. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 64:213-225.
Debinski, D.M., H. Wickham, K. Kindscher, J. C. Caruthers, and M. Germino. 2010. Montane meadow change during drought varies with background hydrologic regime and plant functional group. Ecology 91(6):1672-1681.
IPCC, editors. 2001. Climate change 2001: synthesis report. A contribution of Working Groups I, II, and III to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Mote, P.W. 2003. Trends in snow water equivalent in the Pacific Northwest and their climatic causes. Geophysical Research Letters 30(12):3.1-3.4.
Nakonieczny, M., Kędziorski, A, and K. Michalczyk. 2007. Apollo Butterfly (Parnassius apollo L.) in Europe - Its History, Decline and Perspectives of Conservation. Functional Ecosystems and Communities 1(1):56-79.