Climate-change-induced temporal variation in precipitation increases nitrogen losses from intensive cropping systems: Analysis with a toy model
A simple ‘toy’ model of productivity and nitrogen and phosphorus cycling was used to evaluate how the increasing temporal variation in precipitation that is predicted (and observed) to occur as a consequence of greenhouse-gas-induced climate change will affect crop yields and losses of reactive N that can cause environmental damage and affect human health. The model predicted that as temporal variability in precipitation increased it progressively reduced yields and increased losses of reactive N by disrupting the synchrony between N supply and plant N uptake. Also, increases in the temporal variation of precipitation increased the frequency of floods and droughts. Predictions of this model indicate that climate-change-driven increases in temporal variation in precipitation in rainfed agricultural ecosystems will make it difficult to sustain cropping systems that are both high-yielding and have small environmental and human-health footprints.