Interactive effects of prolonged drought and warming on plant growth and chemistry

Future shifts in precipitation regimes and temperature are expected to affect plant traits dramatically. To date, many studies have explored the effects of acute stresses, but few have investigated the consequences of prolonged shifts in climatic conditions on plant growth and chemistry.

The experiment in progress

Orians and colleagues assessed plant size and metabolite profiles on naturally occurring Plantago lanceolata plants growing under different precipitation (ambient, 50 % less than ambient = drought) and temperature (ambient, +0.8, +2.4 and +4.0 °C above ambient) treatments at the Boston Area Climate Experiment (constructed in 2007).

While the effect of warming on the metabolite profiles was less pronounced, differences were marked when combined with drought. Given the interactive effect of environmental variables on leaf chemistry, and the fact that woody and herbaceous plants seem to differ in their responses to temperature and precipitation, future studies should account for the direct and indirect effects of the community response to multifactorial field conditions.