Dryland mechanisms could widely control ecosystem functioning in a drier and warmer world

José M. Grünzweig, Hans J. De Boeck, Ana Rey, Maria J. Santos, Ori Adam, Michael Bahn, Jayne Belnap, Gaby Deckmyn, Stefan C. Dekker, Omar Flores, Daniel Gliksman, David Helman, Kevin R. Hultine, Lingli Liu, Ehud Meron, Yaron Michael, Efrat Sheffer, Heather L. Throop, Omer Tzuk, Dan Yakir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Responses of terrestrial ecosystems to climate change have been explored in many regions worldwide. While continued drying and warming may alter process rates and deteriorate the state and performance of ecosystems, it could also lead to more fundamental changes in the mechanisms governing ecosystem functioning. Here we argue that climate change will induce unprecedented shifts in these mechanisms in historically wetter climatic zones, towards mechanisms currently prevalent in dry regions, which we refer to as ‘dryland mechanisms’. We discuss 12 dryland mechanisms affecting multiple processes of ecosystem functioning, including vegetation development, water flow, energy budget, carbon and nutrient cycling, plant production and organic matter decomposition. We then examine mostly rare examples of the operation of these mechanisms in non-dryland regions where they have been considered irrelevant at present. Current and future climate trends could force microclimatic conditions across thresholds and lead to the emergence of dryland mechanisms and their increasing control over ecosystem functioning in many biomes on Earth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1064-1076
Number of pages13
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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