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Top Story

In drought and heavy rains, ecosystems function like information communication networks

Tree canopies and the running streams below, or coral reefs and the ocean waters that flow around them, are interconnected components of a larger whole: an ecosystem. These ecosystem parts are in communication with one another, scientists have learned, via signals transmitted among earth, air and water. This idea has led to new ways of tracking how precipitation alters interactions among the atmosphere, vegetation and soil, according to new findings. The researchers gathered data for changes in flows of heat, soil moisture and carbon -- known as fluxes -- before, during and after prolonged rainfall and droughts. The Reynolds Creek Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) site experienced several days of rain in July 2015. The Southern Sierra CZO site endured a multi-year drought beginning in 2012. Although the field sites and data are from different ecosystems, time periods and weather disturbances, the study provides insights into how connectivity influences fluxes, the researchers said. Stronger connectivity alters how rainfall affects moisture, heat and carbon fluxes in ecosystems, as well as the progression from early to late-stage drought.

Visit Website | Image credit: NSF Reynolds Creek CZO