Climate change is expected to reduce annual precipitation by 20 % and increase its standard deviation by 20 % in the eastern Mediterranean. We have examined how these changes may affect herbaceous aboveground net primary production (ANPP) and its inter-annual coefficient of variation (CV) in natural rangelands along a desert—Mediterranean precipitation gradient, at five sites representing arid, semi-arid, and Mediterranean-type ecosystems, respectively, all showing positive linear relationships between herbaceous ANPP and annual precipitation. Scenarios of reduced annual precipitation and increased inter-annual precipitation variability were defined by manipulating mean annual precipitation (MAP) and its standard deviation. We simulated precipitation and calculated ANPP using current ANPP–precipitation relationships. Our model predicts that reduced precipitation will strongly reduce ANPP in arid and semi-arid sites. Moreover, the effect of reduced precipitation on the CV of ANPP along the entire gradient may be modified by changes in inter-annual variability in MAP. Reduced precipitation combined with increased precipitation variability was the scenario most relevant to the wet end of the gradient, due to the increased likelihood for both dry and rainy years. In contrast, the scenario most relevant to the arid end of the gradient combined reduced precipitation with decreased precipitation variability, due to the strong effect on mean ANPP. All scenarios increased variability of ANPP along the entire gradient. However, the higher sensitivity of vegetation at arid and semi-arid sites (i.e., lower forage production) to future changes in the precipitation regime emphasizes the need to adapt grazing management in these ecosystems to secure their long-term viability as sustainable rangelands.
- Coefficient of variation
- Mean annual precipitation
- Precipitation variability
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics