Precipitation event timing and magnitude are important drivers of ecosystem processes and are instrumental in creating landscape heterogeneity. Ecosystems respond to precipitation and other driving variables at different spatial and temporal scales, which complicates understanding of the relationships that govern ecosystem conditions. To better characterize the ecosystem response, we present a low-dimensional framework for simulating the influence of precipitation event timing and magnitude on grassland ecosystems, with particular focus on characterizing the temporal sensitivity of water and carbon fluxes to climate forcings and the feedback of water and carbon on soil moisture availability. Results show variation in daily through seasonal sensitivity of ecosystem water and carbon fluxes and identifies the way these sensitivities change at daily to annual timescales to shape long-term ecosystem states. This provides for a better understanding of the nonlinearities inherent to ecosystem interactions during the growing season and provides assessment of the extent that precipitation variance has on grassland functioning and heterogeneity. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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