Plant Ecology

, Volume 219, Issue 5, pp 517–526 | Cite as

Reduction in primary production followed by rapid recovery of plant biomass in response to repeated mid-season droughts in a semiarid shrubland

  • G. Ónodi
  • Z. Botta-Dukát
  • Gy. Kröel-Dulay
  • E. Lellei-Kovács
  • M. Kertész


The frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including droughts, are expected to increase due to the climate change. Climate manipulation field experiments are widely used tools to study the response of key parameters like primary production to the treatments. Our study aimed to detect the effect of drought on the aboveground biomass and primary production both during the treatments as well as during the whole growing seasons in semiarid vegetation. We estimated aboveground green biomass of vascular plants in a Pannonian sand forest-steppe ecosystem in Hungary. We applied non-destructive field remote sensing method in control and drought treatments. Drought treatment was carried out by precipitation exclusion in May and June, and was repeated in each year from 2002. We measured NDVI before the drought treatment, right after the treatment, and at the end of the summer in 2011 and 2013. We found that the yearly biomass peaks, measured in control plots after the treatment periods, were decreased or absent in drought treatment plots, and consequently, the aboveground net primary production was smaller than in the control plots. At the same time, we did not find general drought effects on all biomass data. The studied ecosystem proved resilient, as the biomass in the drought-treated plots recovered by the next drought treatment. We conclude that the effect of drought treatment can be overestimated with only one measurement at the time of the peak biomass, while multiple within-year measurements better describe the response of biomass.


Aboveground net primary production Climate change experiment Drought Multi-seasonal biomass estimation NDVI Semiarid shrubland 



This study was funded by the VULCAN project (EU FP5 Grant EVK2-CT-2000-00094), the INCREASE project (EU FP7 Grant 227628), the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA K112576), and the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (GINOP 2.3.3-15-2016-00019). We are grateful to the Kiskunság National Park (Hungary) for the support of our field work. The authors thank the anonymous reviewers of this manuscript for their valuable comments which have helped us to improve the quality of the paper.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 9 kb)
11258_2018_814_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (37 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 37 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Ónodi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Z. Botta-Dukát
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gy. Kröel-Dulay
    • 1
    • 2
  • E. Lellei-Kovács
    • 1
  • M. Kertész
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.MTA Centre for Ecological Research, Institute of Ecology and BotanyVácrátótHungary
  2. 2.MTA Centre for Ecological Research, GINOP Sustainable Ecosystems GroupTihanyHungary

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