Long-term native temperate grassland responses to warming, precipitation and defoliation in Central Alberta
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Canada’s northern temperate grasslands are a large and valuable natural resource that provides widespread social, economic and environmental benefits to Canadians. Understanding how grassland vegetation is affected by ongoing climatic disturbances such as increased temperatures, altered precipitation and variable defoliation intensities can help improve management practices and ensure this resource is managed sustainably. Over a five-year study period, treatments were conducted to manipulate air temperature, precipitation and variable intensities of summer defoliation. Plant cover (%) data were recorded and community diversity metrics and compositional responses to treatments were assessed. Species richness and diversity were generally resistant to climate treatments, plant cover responded to the combined interactions of temperature and precipitation, and species composition was affected by the combined interactions of all three effects. Our results suggest that these grasslands show resistance to long-term increases in air temperature, but that community composition may change more readily with increased precipitation and grazing.