The consequences of climate change for dryland biogeochemistry

Brooke B. Osborne, Brandon T. Bestelmeyer, Courtney M. Currier, Peter M. Homyak, Heather L. Throop, Kristina Young, Sasha C. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Drylands, which cover > 40% of Earth's terrestrial surface, are dominant drivers of global biogeochemical cycling and home to more than one third of the global human population. Climate projections predict warming, drought frequency and severity, and evaporative demand will increase in drylands at faster rates than global means. As a consequence of extreme temperatures and high biological dependency on limited water availability, drylands are predicted to be exceptionally sensitive to climate change and, indeed, significant climate impacts are already being observed. However, our understanding and ability to forecast climate change effects on dryland biogeochemistry and ecosystem functions lag behind many mesic systems. To improve our capacity to forecast ecosystem change, we propose focusing on the controls and consequences of two key characteristics affecting dryland biogeochemistry: (1) high spatial and temporal heterogeneity in environmental conditions and (2) generalized resource scarcity. In addition to climate change, drylands are experiencing accelerating land-use change. Building our understanding of dryland biogeochemistry in both intact and disturbed systems will better equip us to address the interacting effects of climate change and landscape degradation. Responding to these challenges will require a diverse, globally distributed and interdisciplinary community of dryland experts united towards better understanding these vast and important ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-20
Number of pages6
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • arid lands
  • global change
  • islands of fertility
  • multiple resource limitation
  • restoration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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