Sevilleta LTER to receive the world's slowest RAPID award from NSF!

Following the ESA wildfire in August 2009 we submitted a RAPID proposal to address a series of questions related to ecosystem reconstruction under global change.

Research at the Sevilleta LTER site in central New Mexico is concentrated on studies in riparian corridors, desert grassland and shrubland communities, and pinon-juniper woodlands. Our research focuses on biodiversity, species interactions, ecosystem processes and climate change. Aridland ecosystems are governed by key abiotic and biotic drivers, especially climate variability, fire, plant-microbe interactions, nutrient dynamics, and herbivory. On 4-5 August 2009 during the ESA Annual Meeting in Albuquerque a lightening-caused wildfire burned approximately 3200 ha of native desert grassland at the Sevilleta, including several key long-term LTER experiments that evaluate the potential impact of climate change on Chihuahuan Desert ecosystems. With this RAPID funding we will monitor the interaction of microbial populations and desert grasses in our monsoon rainfall manipulation experiment to assess recovery rates of plant-microbial interactions. Microbes may play an important role in helping native plants survive drought and fire. We placed a new flux tower in unburned grassland and we will gather more detailed information on soil respiration and CO2 efflux in burned and unburned grasslands during post-fire succession, as well as in our nighttime warming and winter rainfall experiments. This will provide important information related to how desert ecosystems affect greenhouse gas emissions following fire. Finally, we will measure how grasshoppers, which are key herbivores in this system, respond to changes in food availibility following a large wildfire in which many of their food resources were removed by burning. Aridland ecosystems account for 30-40% terrestrial environments and fires are likely to increase in the future under climate change. Our research will take advantage of our long-term data to assess in more detail how plants and microbes interact. We will measure carbon fluxes during post-fire succession under climate change conditions, and we will link ecosystem recovery of baseline resources to a key consumer group, grasshoppers.