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Comparing warming and grazing effects on birch growth in an alpine environment: a 10-year experiment
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Plant Ecology and Evolution.
2010 (English)In: Plant Ecology & Diversity, ISSN 1755-0874, E-ISSN 1755-1668, Vol. 3, no 1, 19-27 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background : Tree encroachment of arctic tundra and alpine vegetation is a generally predicted response to climate warming. However, herbivory plays an important role in structuring these ecosystems and their responses to warming.

Aims : To experimentally test how grazing and increased growing season temperature influence growth, physiognomy and stature of birch in the alpine zone.

Methods: Trait responses of naturally regenerated birch saplings to warming (open-top chambers), and changed grazing regime (exclosures) were compared with those growing in unmanipulated conditions over a 10-year period (1999–2008). The effect of treatment over time and differences between treatments were analysed with repeated measures GLM (Generalised Linear Model) and simple contrasts in GLM.

Results: Warming alone had no major effect on trait responses, however, significantly smaller leaves and an increased number of short shoots indicated warming-related growth constraints. Grazing showed a strong controlling effect on most traits, conserving low stature sapling stage characterised by fewer shoots and larger leaves, compared with non-grazed treatments.

Conclusions: Although derived from one experimental site, the results point to a grazing-controlled response to environmental change, with climate (warming) as a secondary driver. This herbivore-driven masking of expected climate-driven tree expansion emphasises the necessity to consider changes in grazing regimes along with climate change, in order to avoid misleading interpretations regarding climate-driven tundra encroachment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 3, no 1, 19-27 p.
Keyword [en]
alpine tundra, Betula pubescens ssp. tortuosa, birch saplings, changed grazing regime, climate change, experimental warming, growth response, open-top chambers
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Biology with specialization in Ecological Botany
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-142516DOI: 10.1080/17550871003717016OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-142516DiVA: diva2:387587
Available from: 2011-01-14 Created: 2011-01-14 Last updated: 2017-12-11Bibliographically approved

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