Biotech Updates

Changing Climate Could Alter Meadow's Ecosystems

July 9, 2010

The ongoing climate change across the globe could be an extension of an experiment being conducted in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of the Rocky Mountains. Diane Debinski of Iowa State University has been studying the area since 1992 and has reached a conclusion that "if the area's climate becomes drier as the earth's temperature climbs, it could lead to a change in the types of plants and animals that live there."

Six different types of montane meadows that ranged from dry (xeric) to wet (hydric) and watered from the melting winter snows were studied. The researcher and her colleagues measured the changes in the plant community from 1997 to 2007, including an extended drought. The research published in the journal Ecology showed that shrubs increased while flowering plants decreased in number.

She concluded that "In these meadows, as water became more scarce, that means less moisture for the plants. The flowering plants don't grow as well and therefore don't provide as much food to the animals. These types of changes in the plants could affect populations of elk, bison, as well as many other smaller animals, including insects." The results also showed that medium-moisture meadows -- neither wet nor dry -- are in the biggest danger of change.

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