Brooke Wainwright, a graduate student at the University of New Mexico with the Sevilleta Long Term Ecological Research program, describes the signature experiment of the 2018-2024 program: The Mean – Variance Climate Experiment. This experiment factorially manipulates the average (mean) and variability (variance) in soil moisture to understand ecological responses to predicted climates of the future. During the past 100 years, climate has become both drier and more variable across ecosystems of the southwestern US and in many drylands worldwide. This is the first experiment in the world to alter these changes in combination, which is critically important because the direction and magnitude of ecological responses to a changing mean climate may depend on the degree of climate variability. Changes in the mean and variance of climate may drive ecosystem transitions, where one ecosystem type overtakes another. Brooke’s studies on recruitment dynamics of foundation plant species are helping to predict how climate change may cause future ecosystem state transitions.
This work is part of the Sevilleta LTER project funded by the National Science Foundation.
Video by Felina Martinez