Soil moisture mediates association between the winter North Atlantic Oscillation and summer growth in the Park Grass Experiment
Kettlewell, P. S., Easey, J., Stephenson, D. B. and Poulton, P. R. (2006) Soil moisture mediates association between the winter North Atlantic Oscillation and summer growth in the Park Grass Experiment. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 273 (1590). pp. 1149-1154. ISSN 0962-8452
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Several aspects of terrestrial ecosystems are known to be associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) through effects of the NAO on winter climate, but recently the winter NAO has also been shown to be correlated with the following summer climate, including drought. Since drought is a major factor determining grassland primary productivity, the hypothesis was tested that the winter NAO is associated with summer herbage growth through soil moisture availability, using data from the Park Grass Experiment at Rothamsted, UK between 1960 and 1999. The herbage growth rate, mean daily rainfall, mean daily potential evapotranspiration (PE) and the mean and maximum potential soil moisture deficit (PSMD) were calculated between the two annual cuts in early summer and autumn for the unlimed, unfertilized plots. Mean and maximum PSMD were more highly correlated than rainfall or PE with herbage growth rate. Regression analysis showed that the natural logarithm of the herbage growth rate approximately halved for a 250 mm increase in maximum PSMD over the range 50-485 mm. The maximum PSMD was moderately correlated with the preceding winter NAO, with a positive winter NAO index associated with greater maximum PSMD. A positive winter NAO index was also associated with low herbage growth rate, accounting for 22% of the interannual variation in the growth rate. It was concluded that the association between the winter NAO and summer herbage growth rate is mediated by the PSMD in summer.
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