Opposite trends in life stages of annual plants caused by daily rainfall variability -interaction with climate change.

Köchy, M. (2006)

Global Circulation Models of climate predict not only a change of annual precipitation amounts but also a shift in the daily distribution. To improve the understanding of the importance of daily rain pattern for annual plant communities, which represent a large portion of semi-natural vegetation in the Middle East, I used a detailed, spatially explicit model. The model explicitly considers water storage in the soil and has been parameterized and validated with data collected in field experiments in Israel and data from the literature. I manipulated daily rainfall variability by increasing the mean daily rain intensity on rainy days (MDI, rain volume/day) and decreasing intervals between rainy days while keeping the mean annual amount constant. In factorial combination, I also increased mean annual precipitation (MAP). I considered five climatic regions characterized by 100, 300, 450, 600, and 800 mm MAP. Increasing MDI decreased establishment when MAP was >250 mm but increased establish¬ment at more arid sites. The negative effect of increasing MDI was compensated by increasing mortality with increasing MDI in dry and typical Mediterranean regions (c. 360–720 mm MAP). These effects were strongly tied to water availability in upper and lower soil layers and modified by competition among seedlings and adults. Increasing MAP generally increased water availability, establish¬ment, and density. The order of magnitudes of MDI and MAP effects overlapped partially so that their combined effect is important for projections of climate change effects on annual vegetation. The effect size of MAP and MDI followed a sigmoid curve along the MAP gradient indicating that the semi-arid region (≈300 mm MAP) is the most sensitive to precipitation change with regard to annual communities.

Full text: Pages 347-357 in Ünal, Y., C. Kahya, and D. Demirhan Barı, editors. Proceedings of the International Conference on Climate Change and the Middle East: Past, Present and Future Turkish State Meteorological Service (DMI), Ankara, Turkey.