Research Topic

Adaptation of Dryland Plants to a Changing Environment

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About this Research Topic

Drylands, are defined as areas where annual mean potential evapotranspiration is at least 1.5 times greater than annual mean precipitation, with an aridity index (AI) ranging between 0.05 and 0.65. Based on the AI, drylands can be classified into 4 subtypes: dry sub-humid (AI=0.50–0.65), semi-arid ...

Drylands, are defined as areas where annual mean potential evapotranspiration is at least 1.5 times greater than annual mean precipitation, with an aridity index (AI) ranging between 0.05 and 0.65. Based on the AI, drylands can be classified into 4 subtypes: dry sub-humid (AI=0.50–0.65), semi-arid (AI=0.20–0.50), arid (AI=0.05–0.20) and hyper-arid (AI<0.05) lands. To date drylands cover ~40% of the global terrestrial surface and are home to >38% of the world’s population, which is estimated to rise to 3 billion by 2020. Drylands are one of the most vulnerable ecosystems to changes in the environment and anthropogenic activity. Over the 20th century they increased by 4–8% and will likely continue to expand during 21st century. Future climate projections indicate that drylands will bear risks of changing climate, particularly facing greater-warming in the decades to come. Droughts, high temperatures, heat waves and other predicted environmental changes will have profound effects on dryland plant communities and the services they provide, including water resources, wildlife habitat, soil conservation, agriculture and carbon storage.

Although there is an increasing awareness of the potential impact that the changing environment has on dryland plant function and community dynamics, there is still considerably less theoretical and empirical attention from scientists to dryland plants compared to plants from other ecosystems. This less attention is hampering the ability to improve our understanding and predict the structure and functioning of dryland ecosystems. Studies focus on the effects of environmental changes in dryland ecosystems differ from other ecosystems because of the characteristic water limitation of drylands.

This Research Topic aims to highlight the ecological role of plants in drylands under human-induced environmental changes. Contributions to this Research Topic will focus on dryland plants in relation to changes in climate, such as rising temperature, heat waves, and altered precipitation, and in human activities, such as grazing, land abandonment, mining, deforestation, soil loss, and human-induced change in land use or land cover. The scale of the contributions will be at local, regional and globally. We welcome authors to report original and novel research on dryland plant adaptation and responses, either from temporal, spatial observations along environmental gradients, or from simulation experiments that focus on short-term and rapid effects of environmental changes. Simulation modeling approaches will also be considered. We encourage submissions from various disciplines, both case studies and reviews that document how environmental changes affect plant growth, vegetation, ecosystem and how the abiotic environment might shift the intensity of these interactions. Submission to this Research Topic is limited to authors previously contacted by the Topic Editors.


Keywords: Future Climates, Drylands, Ecosystem Functioning, Plant Adaptation, Vegetation Dynamics


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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