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Reindeer grazing increases summer albedo by reducing shrub abundance in Arctic tundra
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. (Arcum)
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. Ecology and Biodiversity, Department Biology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. (Arcum)
2016 (English)In: Environmental Research Letters, ISSN 1748-9326, E-ISSN 1748-9326, Vol. 11, no 12, 125013Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous studies have shown that climate warming is causing shrub cover to increase at high latitudes. Increased shrub cover generally lowers surface albedo, which results in higher energy absorption and further warming. In parts of Fennoscandia, herbivory is known to control vegetation height and abundance, and thus preventing this positive feedback. Here, we combine field measurements of albedo, herbivory and vegetation characteristics in four topographically-defined vegetation types of varying shrub height and abundance with land surface modeling (JULES) to investigate if reindeer grazing can influence the energy balance of an arctic tundra. We find that when reindeer reduces shrub height and abundance, summer albedo increases in both Betula nana-dominated heath vegetation and Salix glauca-dominated willow depressions. Model results reveal associated lower net radiation, and latent and sensible heat fluxes in heavily-grazed sites in all shrub-dominated vegetation types. Our results also suggest that the structural shift from graminoid to shrub tundra drives the difference in summer albedo, rather than shifts from dwarf-shrub to tall-shrub tundra. Reindeer has thus a potential cooling effect on climate by increasing summer albedo and decreasing net radiation, which highlights the importance of mammalian herbivores for the earth system beyond their local grazing impacts. However, the strong effects of reindeer on albedo are probably restricted to areas with high reindeer densities, since a dramatic vegetation change is essential. The importance of these processes across the whole range of reindeer densities found in the arctic tundra needs to be further evaluated.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 11, no 12, 125013
Keyword [en]
albedo, climate change, herbivory, land-atmosphere interactions, heat flux, shrub, tundra
National Category
Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-132051DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa5128ISI: 000391723000001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-132051DiVA: diva2:1080587
Available from: 2017-03-10 Created: 2017-03-10 Last updated: 2017-03-10Bibliographically approved

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te Beest, MariskaSitters, JudithOlofsson, Johan
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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
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