Increasing climatic sensitivity of global grassland vegetation biomass and species diversity correlates with water availability

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Grasslands are key repositories of biodiversity and carbon storage and are heavily impacted by effects of global warming and changes in precipitation regimes. Patterns of grassland dynamics associated with variability in future climate conditions across spatiotemporal scales are yet to be adequately quantified. Here, we performed a global meta-analysis of year and growing season sensitivities of vegetation aboveground biomass (AGB), aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP), and species richness (SR) and diversity (Shannon index, H) to experimental climate warming and precipitation shifts. All four variables were sensitive to climate change. Their sensitivities to shifts in precipitation were correlated with local background water availability, such as mean annual precipitation (MAP) and aridity, and AGB and ANPP sensitivities were greater in dry habitats than in non-water limited habitats. There was no effect of duration of experiment (short vs long-term) on sensitivities. Temporal trends in ANPP and SR sensitivity depended on local water availability; ANPP sensitivity to warming increased over time and SR sensitivity to irrigation decreased over time. Our results provide a global overview of the sensitivities of grassland function and diversity to climate change that will improve understanding of ecological responses across spatiotemporal scales and inform policies for conservation in dry climates.


  • Daijun Liu
  • Chao Zhang
  • Romà Ogaya
  • Marcos Fernández-Martínez
  • Thomas A M Pugh
  • Josep Peñuelas
External organisations
  • Global Ecology Unit CREAF-CSIC-UAB
  • Autonomous University of Barcelona
  • University of Antwerp
  • University of Vienna
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Helsinki
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Phytologist
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021 Feb 12
Publication categoryResearch