Warmer Nights and Changes in Plant Community Structure

Introduction:

Global minimum temperatures are rising faster than the average maximums; that is, nights are warming faster than the days. The ecological consequences of this temperature shift to plant communities are unknown.

In his work on grassland plant communities in the high plains of Colorado, Richard Alward found that the dominant grass species, blue grama, grows less when nighttime temperatures increase. The potential consequences of decreased growth by the dominant plant could be increased susceptability to invasion by exotic species, and/or decreased tolerance to drought and grazing. We spoke with Richard about his work and its relation to global warming.

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