Changes in grassland canopy structure across a productivity gradient

TitleChanges in grassland canopy structure across a productivity gradient
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsLane D.R., Coffin D.P., Lauenroth W.K.
Conference Name83rd Annual Meeting, Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America
Date Published1998
ARIS Log Number089570
AbstractThe canopy structure of a grassland community has important effects on ecological processes by influencing the availability of light for individual plants growing within the community. As productivity increases, belowground processes are predicted to decrease in relative importance for determining community structure while aboveground processes are predicted to increase. We quantified vertical profiles of light transmission, biomass, and leaf area for three natural grassland types in the Central Grassland region of the United States to examine how these properties varied with increased productivity. Overall, increased productivity across the study gradient was correlated with increased canopy height, decreased light availability at the soil surface, increased seasonal changes in light transmission, increased biomass and leaf area at higher canopy layers, and increased leaf area index. The changes in canopy structure that we documented support the prediction that aboveground processes related to capturing light increase in importance with increasing precipitation and productivity. These changes in canopy structure are likely to affect resource availability and successional dynamics across a productivity gradient.