EXT 22 Response of rangeland ecosystems to extreme drought


Project Details

  • Project Lead: Dr. Rafael Otfinowski, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Collaborating Partners: Kim Wolfe, Research Management Specialist, Manitoba Agriculture Jane Thornton, Farm Production Extension – Forage and Pasture, Manitoba Agriculture
  • MBFI Location(s): Brookdale and Johnson Farm Sites
  • Start Date: May 2016
  • Status: In progress

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In response to drought, the experiment will monitor the aboveground productivity, soil nutrient concentrations, and plant community composition of an upland rangeland community. Data collected following four years of drought treatment will be combined with those collected from an international network of stations.


Terrestrial ecosystems are known to vary dramatically in their responses to drought. With climate change, droughts are expected to increase in frequency and magnitude, and thus become more extreme. However, the mechanistic basis underlying how ecosystems respond to drought limits our ability to project drought impacts. Following the protocol of the International Drought Experiment1, the project will impose a drought that represents a statistically extreme deviation in annual precipitation relative to long-term records. A drought treatment will be imposed year-round over a four-year period using infrastructure that passively reduces each rainfall event by a fixed percentage. In collaboration with the International Drought Experiment this project will contribute data that will permit comparisons across western Canada and globally. Improved understanding of the impacts of drought on rangeland ecosystems will help improve existing models to help manage rangeland resources, including the plants and soils that sustain them.