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Community, Functional Group, and Species Responses to Decades of Experimental Warming in the High and Low Arctic
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Biology Education Centre.
2014 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

While manipulative warming experiments have detected significant changes to alpine and arctic ecosystems, the nature of these changes appear to vary significantly in space (i.e., regionally and at the neighborhood level) and time (i.e., short- versus long-term effects). To further understand the variation in climate change effects on high-latitude vegetation communities, I measured the responses of a high Arctic meadow community in Adventdalen, Svalbard, to 11 years of open-top chamber (OTC) warming, and three low Arctic plant communities in Latnjajaure, Sweden, to 21 years of warming. In the low Arctic sites the abundance of living material was significantly higher in OTC’s than control plots, but this pattern did not hold in the high Arctic. In all sites, however, there was a significant, sometimes threefold increase in dead plant material in warmed plots. There were also shifts in the functional group composition of communities in the OTC plots at all the sites, but the nature of these shifts differed by community. After 21 years of warming in the low Arctic there was a significant decrease in lichen and moss cover, and different vascular plant functional groups expanded depending on community type. In the high Arctic, forbs and rushes expanded in cover at the expense of the dominant shrub, Salix polaris. Surprisingly, there were few effects of warming on community diversity or evenness at any site. Individual species at sites showed various responses to warming, from positive to negative effects on both abundance, growth, and reproduction. For instance, S. polaris flowering increased in OTC’s in the high Arctic, but S. herbacea flowering decreased in OTC’s in the low Arctic. My results show that the abundance of living and dead biomass will be strongly affected by long-term warming. This is particularly important given the strong linkages between community productivity, litter accumulation and decomposition, and nutrient and carbon cycling. Changes to community composition and effects on individual populations, however, must be assessed at a local scale in order to draw reliable conclusions about the future trajectories of these communities. Responses to warming from the species to the community level have important implications for ecosystem functioning. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-233216OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-233216DiVA: diva2:751057
External cooperation
University of Tromso
Educational program
Master Programme in Biology
2014-09-17, 19:08 (English)
Available from: 2016-09-28 Created: 2014-09-30 Last updated: 2016-09-28Bibliographically approved

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