Possible Effects of Global Warming on Three Native North American Prairie Species
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Prairies are one of the many biomes to be hit by global warming, and little is known about how prairie species will respond as temperatures increase rapidly. Previous studies have shown temperature has the ability to influence germination as well as plant growth. However, exact responses to temperature may change depending on several other driving factors such as seed source, presence of soil microbes, and source of soil microbes. Testing was conducted using growth chamber technology to manipulate abiotic conditions creating an elevated and ambient treatment for testing two different regional sources of seeds and soil (northern and southern) for three species (Coreopsis lanceolata (forbe), Chamaecrista fasciculata (legume), and Andropogon gerardi (grass)). Our investigation confirmed that temperature is an important factor in influencing both phenology and plant growth of our focal species. But more importantly, we show that several other factors influence plant growth and phenology under an increased temperature. Seed source significantly influenced timing of germination for all three species. Coreopsis’s and Chamaecrista’s northern seeds both germinated quicker, however Andropogon’s response was opposite. No significant interactions were observed between seed source and temperature in regards to growth, only a shared response to temperature depending on individual species. Coreopsis was the only species to grow better under ambient conditions, the other two grew better under elevated conditions. Lastly, we explored how the presence of soil microbes as well as their source could affect plant growth. None of the species grew better when inoculated with the microbes, however one species (Andropogon) showed a significant interaction between its northern seed source and a southern soil source, suggesting that the southern microbes may have been beneficial. Our results suggest that these interactions are more complex in nature and would need further study if we wish to understand how prairie species will respond to global warming.