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TitlePotential impacts of climate change on grazing capacity of native grasslands in the Canadian praries
AuthorThorpe, J; Wolfe, S A; Houston, B
SourceCanadian Journal of Soil Science vol. 88, no. 4, 2008 p. 595-609
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20070266
ProvinceSaskatchewan; Manitoba; Alberta
NTS62E; 62F; 62G; 62J; 62K; 62L; 62M; 62N; 62O; 63C; 63D; 72; 73A; 73B; 73C; 73D; 73E; 73F; 73G; 82H; 82I; 82O; 82P; 83A; 83H
AreaEdmonton; Calgary; Brandon; Regina; Saskatoon; Cypress Hills
Lat/Long WENS-114.0000 -98.0000 54.0000 49.0000
Subjectsenvironmental geology; soils science; Nature and Environment; vegetation; environmental analysis; environmental studies; environmental impacts; soils; soil moisture; soil studies; grasslands; climate change
Illustrationslocation maps; tables; plots
ProgramEnhancing resilience in a changing climate
AbstractRelationships between climate and native grassland production in the Canadian prairies were modelled and used to estimate the potential impacts of climate change on grazing capacity. Field measurements of production were related to climate variables and water balance estimates using regression analysis. Historical time series showed that year-to-year production is most closely correlated with annual actual evapotranspiration, whereas geographic patterns revealed that average production is most closely related to the annual water deficit. Climate and production estimates from the US Great Plains represent potential analogues for the Canadian prairies in the 2050s. Analysis of geographic patterns using Canadian and US data showed that production can be related to actual evapotranspiration (Model 1) or the ratio of actual to potential evapotranspiration (Model 2). The proportion of warmseason (C4) grasses has a significant effect on production in these models. A third independent model (Model 3) using US production data was used for comparison. Five general circulation model (GCM) scenarios covering a range of predictions simulated warmer climates of the 2050s. The production models were used to estimate changes in grassland production. On loamy soils, Model 1 predicts increases in production whereas Models 2 and 3 predict decreases. However, all predicted changes are modest, indicating that Canadian grasslands will probably remain productive over the next 50 yr. In addition, warm-season grasses could increase, particularly on sandy soils, thus benefiting productivity.