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A Simulation of the Importance of Length of Growing Season and Canopy Functional Properties on the Seasonal Gross Primary Production of Temperate Alpine Meadows

Author:
Baptist, Florence, Choler, Philippe
Source:
Annals of botany 2008 v.101 no.4 pp. 549-559
ISSN:
0305-7364
Subject:
alpine meadows, alpine plants, canopy, carbon, ecosystems, environmental factors, functional properties, growing season, leaf angle, leaf area index, models, nitrogen content, photosynthetically active radiation, primary productivity, snowmelt
Abstract:
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Along snowmelt gradients, the canopies of temperate alpine meadows differ strongly in their structural and biochemical properties. Here, a study is made of the effects of these canopy dissimilarities combined with the snow-induced changes in length of growing season on seasonal gross primary production (GPP). METHODS: Leaf area index (LAI) and community-aggregated values of leaf angle and leaf nitrogen content were estimated for seven alpine plant canopies distributed along a marked snowmelt gradient, and these were used as input variables in a sun-shade canopy bulk-photosynthesis model. The model was validated for plant communities of early and late snowmelt sites by measuring the instantaneous CO₂ fluxes with a canopy closed-chamber technique. A sensitivity analysis was conducted to estimate the relative impact of canopy properties and environmental factors on the daily and seasonal GPP. KEY RESULTS: Carbon uptake was primarily related to the LAI and total canopy nitrogen content, but not to the leaf angle. For a given level of photosynthetically active radiation, CO₂ assimilation was higher under overcast conditions. Sensitivity analysis revealed that increase of the length of the growing season had a higher effect on the seasonal GPP than a similar increase of any other factor. It was also found that the observed greater nitrogen content and larger LAI of canopies in late-snowmelt sites largely compensated for the negative impact of the reduced growing season. CONCLUSIONS: The results emphasize the primary importance of snow-induced changes in length of growing season on carbon uptake in alpine temperate meadows. It was also demonstrated how using leaf-trait values of the dominants is a useful approach for modelling ecosystem carbon-cycle-related processes, particularly when continuous measurements of CO₂ fluxes are technically difficult. The study thus represents an important step in addressing the challenge of using a plant functional-trait approach for biogeochemical modelling.
Agid:
520084