Non-linear responses of glaciated prairie wetlands to climate warming

W. Carter Johnson, Brett Werner, Glenn R. Guntenspergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The response of ecosystems to climate warming is likely to include threshold events when small changes in key environmental drivers produce large changes in an ecosystem. Wetlands of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) are especially sensitive to climate variability, yet the possibility that functional changes may occur more rapidly with warming than expected has not been examined or modeled. The productivity and biodiversity of these wetlands are strongly controlled by the speed and completeness of a vegetation cover cycle driven by the wet and dry extremes of climate. Two thresholds involving duration and depth of standing water must be exceeded every few decades or so to complete the cycle and to produce highly functional wetlands. Model experiments at 19 weather stations employing incremental warming scenarios determined that wetland function across most of the PPR would be diminished beyond a climate warming of about 1.5–2.0 °C, a critical temperature threshold range identified in other climate change studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-223
Number of pages15
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research for this manuscript was funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Science To Achieve Results (STAR) program, managed by the EPA's Office of Research and Development, National Center for Environmental Research, and the US Geological Survey Climate and Land Use Change Research and Development Program. We thank the WETLANDSCAPE development team for collaboration throughout the project, including Karen Poiani, Richard Voldseth, Bruce Millett, Tagir Gilmanov, David Naugle, John Tracy, and Rosemary Carroll. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


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