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Climate change predicted to reduce size, stature of big bluestem grass- dominant Midwest plant

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October 11, 2017 Kansas State University read full ScienceDaily article

The economically important big bluestem grass — a dominant prairie grass and a major forage grass for cattle — is predicted to reduce its growth and stature by up to 60 percent percent in the next 75 years because of climate change, according to a study involving Kansas State University researchers.

Big bluestem, or Andropogon gerardii, is a common grass in natural and restored prairies across the central Midwestern region that includes Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and Iowa. The grass species is an important component of forage for the region’s livestock industry. It also is commonly used in grassland restoration of prairies across several million acres in the Great Plains region.

“Our results predict that climate change could greatly impact the tallgrass prairie as we currently know it, reducing forage for cattle in the drier parts of grasslands, in places like Kansas,” Johnson said.

The research team found that most of the change was because of alterations in rainfall that are expected to occur across the area, not because of increases in temperature. The authors are concerned the dramatic reduction in size of big bluestem foretells a fundamental shift in the nature of the Midwestern grassland ecosystem….

Adam B. Smith, Jacob Alsdurf, Mary Knapp, Sara G. Baer, Loretta C. Johnso…n. Phenotypic distribution models corroborate species distribution models: A shift in the role and prevalence of a dominant prairie grass in response to climate change. Global Change Biology, 2017; 23 (10): 4365 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13666

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