Kröel-Dulay, G. et al: Increased sensitivity to climate change in disturbed ... (2015)

Kröel-Dulay György, Johannes Ransijn, Inger Kappel Schmidt, Claus Beier, Paolo De Angelis, Giovanbattista de Dato, Jeffrey S. Dukes, Bridget Emmett, Marc Estiarte, János Garadnai, Jane Kongstad, Edit Kovács-Láng, Klaus Steenberg Larsen, Dario Liberati, Romà Ogaya, Torben Riis-Nielsen, Andrew Smith, Alwyn Sowerby, Albert Tietema, Josep Penuelas
2015
Increased sensitivity to climate change in disturbed ecosystems
Nature Communications 6:6682
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Human domination of the biosphere includes changes to disturbance regimes, which
push many ecosystems towards early-successional states. Ecological theory predicts that
early-successional ecosystems are more sensitive to perturbations than mature systems, but
little evidence supports this relationship for the perturbation of climate change. Here we
show that vegetation (abundance, species richness and species composition) across seven
European shrublands is quite resistant to moderate experimental warming and drought,
and responsiveness is associated with the dynamic state of the ecosystem, with recently
disturbed sites responding to treatments. Furthermore, most of these responses are not
rapid (2–5 years) but emerge over a longer term (7–14 years). These results suggest that
successional state influences the sensitivity of ecosystems to climate change, and that
ecosystems recovering from disturbances may be sensitive to even modest climatic changes.
A research bias towards undisturbed ecosystems might thus lead to an underestimation of
the impacts of climate change.