Changes in Earth's surface temperatures caused by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are expected to affect global and regional precipitation regimes. Interactions between changing precipitation regimes and other aspects of global change are likely to affect natural and managed terrestrial ecosystems as well as human society. Although much recent research has focused on assessing the responses of terrestrial ecosystems to rising carbon dioxide or temperature, relatively little research has focused on understanding how ecosystems respond to changes in precipitation regimes. Here we review predicted changes in global and regional precipitation regimes, outline the consequences of precipitation change for natural ecosystems and human activities, and discuss approaches to improving understanding of ecosystem responses to changing precipitation. Further, we introduce the Precipitation and Ecosystem Change Research Network (PrecipNet), a new interdisciplinary research network assembled to encourage and foster communication and collaboration across research groups with common interests in the impacts of global change on precipitation regimes, ecosystem structure and function, and the human enterprise.
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Vol. 53 • No. 10