Rainout Shelter

Keeping the Rain Out!

One of the challenges of living and working in the Great Basin is the variable rainfall. However, there has been surpisingly little research on the effect of weather variation on rangeland plants. One of the reasons for the lack of research on this topic is that we cannot change the weather!

In this study we chose to focus on one question, "How does rainfall timing influence Great Basin vegetation?" This is a difficult subject to study because we cannot easily manipulate rainfall timing. Our approach was to exclude all rain with the help of rainout shelters (large sheds with a clear roof to keep rain out and let in sunlight) and use an overhead sprinkler system to "rain on" three different zones under each rain shelter at the desired time.

Rainout Shelters Our three rainfall treatments (zones) are : 1) average current rainfall, 2) a higher amount of rainfall during winter, and 3) a higher amount of rainfall during the spring. All three treatments recieve the same amount of water.

Every year we measure variables such as plant development and productivity, plant species composition and cover, plant rooting activity, and soil moisture and nitrogen to see how the different rainfall treatments effect the plants.

We hope the results of this study will help land managers better understand the impacts of weather on vegetation changes. Managers are faced with the challenge of separating the effects of weather from those caused by management. We also know that the Great Basin has undergone large changes in weather patterns in the past and will likely do so in the future. The results of this study might help us predict how climatic shifts will influence vegetation.

Share this