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The Importance of Accounting for Landscape Position When Investigating Grasslands: A Multidisciplinary Characterisation of a California Coastal Grassland


Rowley, Mike C; Falco, Nicola; Pegoraro, Elaine; Dafflon, Baptiste; Gerlein-Safdi, Cynthia; Wu, Yuxin; Castanha, Cristina; Peña, Jasquelin; Nico, Peter S; Torn, Margaret S (2024). The Importance of Accounting for Landscape Position When Investigating Grasslands: A Multidisciplinary Characterisation of a California Coastal Grassland. Earth's Future, 12(6):e2023EF004208.

Abstract

Grasslands are one of the most common land-cover types, providing important ecosystem services globally, yet few studies have examined grassland critical-zone functioning throughout hillslopes. This study characterised a coastal grassland over a small hillslope at Point Reyes National Seashore, California, using multidisciplinary techniques, combining remotely-sensed, geophysical, plant, and soil measurements. Clustering techniques delineated the study area into four landscape zones, up-, mid-, and down-slope, and a bordering riparian ecotone, which had distinct environmental properties that varied spatially across the site, with depth, and time. Soil moisture increased with depth and down slope towards a bordering riparian zone, and co-varied with soil CO2 flux rates both spatially and temporally. This highlighted three distinct controls of soil moisture on soil respiration: CO2 fluxes were inhibited by high moisture content in the down-slope during the wet winter months, and converged across landscape positions in the dry summer months, while also displaying post-rain pulses. The normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) ranged from 0.32 (September)–0.80 (April) and correlated positively with soil moisture and aboveground biomass, moving down slope. Yet, NDVI, aboveground biomass, and soil moisture were not correlated to soil organic carbon (SOC) content (0.4%–4.5%), which was highest in the mid-slope. The SOC content may instead be linked to shifts in dominant grassland species and their rhizosphere properties with landscape position. This multidisciplinary characterisation highlighted significant heterogeneity in grassland properties with landscape position, and demonstrated an approach that could be used to characterise other critical-zone environments on hillslopes.

Abstract

Grasslands are one of the most common land-cover types, providing important ecosystem services globally, yet few studies have examined grassland critical-zone functioning throughout hillslopes. This study characterised a coastal grassland over a small hillslope at Point Reyes National Seashore, California, using multidisciplinary techniques, combining remotely-sensed, geophysical, plant, and soil measurements. Clustering techniques delineated the study area into four landscape zones, up-, mid-, and down-slope, and a bordering riparian ecotone, which had distinct environmental properties that varied spatially across the site, with depth, and time. Soil moisture increased with depth and down slope towards a bordering riparian zone, and co-varied with soil CO2 flux rates both spatially and temporally. This highlighted three distinct controls of soil moisture on soil respiration: CO2 fluxes were inhibited by high moisture content in the down-slope during the wet winter months, and converged across landscape positions in the dry summer months, while also displaying post-rain pulses. The normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) ranged from 0.32 (September)–0.80 (April) and correlated positively with soil moisture and aboveground biomass, moving down slope. Yet, NDVI, aboveground biomass, and soil moisture were not correlated to soil organic carbon (SOC) content (0.4%–4.5%), which was highest in the mid-slope. The SOC content may instead be linked to shifts in dominant grassland species and their rhizosphere properties with landscape position. This multidisciplinary characterisation highlighted significant heterogeneity in grassland properties with landscape position, and demonstrated an approach that could be used to characterise other critical-zone environments on hillslopes.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > General Environmental Science
Physical Sciences > Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
Language:English
Date:21 June 2024
Deposited On:01 Jul 2024 13:50
Last Modified:04 Jul 2024 13:21
Publisher:Wiley Open Access
ISSN:2328-4277
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1029/2023EF004208
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Description: Open Access
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)