Building a Global Perspective on Drought

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

Under climate change, precipitation regimes are expected to shift, with the climates of some regions becoming drier and others becoming wetter. At the same time, the precipitation arriving in a given region is expected to come in fewer, larger events. This suggests that, even in areas of the planet that will become wetter, intervals between precipitation events will get longer. This, along with the warmer temperatures, is expected to produce more extreme regional droughts.

To better understand the potential implications of more extreme drought around the world, an international network called Drought-Net was started in 2014. Among this network’s activities is the development of the International Drought Experiment (IDE). This “coordinated distributed experiment” will use a simple methodology to impose the equivalent of a local 100-year drought at each of dozens of sites around the world, and study the resilience of ecosystems in different regions. Professor Jeffrey Dukes, Forestry and Natural Resources and Biological Sciences, serves on the Drought-Net steering committee and his laboratory has started an IDE site at the Purdue Wildlife Area (PWA), located nine miles west of campus.

In Dukes’s laboratory, Ph.D. student Laura Ploughe, Biological Sciences, has focused her research on drought responses and led the installation of the IDE site in 2015. At the same time, she has developed additional experiments that manipulate precipitation at the PWA. Her work ultimately seeks to link changes in soil moisture and nutrient cycling with changes in plant growth and species composition in prairie and forest understory. With three experiments underway, and more to come, many new insights about the local effects of drought and their relationship to the sensitivities of other ecosystems and regions are sure to follow.

Category: Research

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