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Concurrent biotic interactions influence plant performance at their altitudinal distribution margins
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. (Arcum)
2014 (English)In: Oikos, ISSN 0030-1299, E-ISSN 1600-0706, Vol. 123, no 8, 943-952 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Recent studies have shown that biotic interactions can shape species’ distributions, but empirical data on multiple biotic interactions are scarce. Therefore, we examined effects of plant-plant and plant-herbivore interactions on plant survival, growth and reproduction at different altitudes. For these purposes we conducted a factorial neighbor removal and large herbivore exclusion experiment with six transplant species (three tall forbs with their main distribution at low altitudes and three small forbs with their main distribution at high altitudes) on Låktačohkka Mountain, northern Sweden, replicated at two altitudes (ca. 600 and 900 m a.s.l.) and consequently a 2.1 °C difference in summer air temperatures. Overall transplant survival was 93%. Two out of three tall forbs grew better at low than at high altitudes, while no significant differences in growth between altitudes were found for any of the three small forbs. Since the main difference in abiotic conditions between the altitudes was most likely in temperature (as the sites were topographically and edaphically matched as closely as possible), this result indicates that climatic warming could induce upward migration of tall low-altitude forbs. Negative plant-plant interactions prevailed at both altitudes, and we found indications that competition may set the lower altitudinal limits of some small tundra forbs. Thus, increased competition in response to climate warming may potentially shift the lower margins of high-altitude forbs’ distributions upward. Large mammalian grazers reduced the growth of tall forbs and enhanced the flowering of small forbs, and grazers could thus at least partly counteract the anticipated warming-induced distribution shifts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2014. Vol. 123, no 8, 943-952 p.
National Category
Ecology Environmental Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-85206DOI: 10.1111/oik.01261ISI: 000340664700006OAI: diva2:692124
Available from: 2014-01-30 Created: 2014-01-30 Last updated: 2016-05-18Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The role of herbivores in mediating responses of tundra ecosystems to climate change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The role of herbivores in mediating responses of tundra ecosystems to climate change
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The Arctic areas are warming more rapidly than other parts of the world. Increasing temperatures are predicted to result in shrubification, higher productivity, declining species diversity and new species invasions to the tundra. Changes in species diversity and plant community composition are likely to alter ecosystem functions with potential consequences for human population also at lower latitudes. Thus, in order to better predict the effects of the rapid arctic warming, we need knowledge on how plant communities respond to a warmer climate. Here, I investigate the effects of climate warming on tundra plant communities and focus on the role of mammalian herbivores in mediating these responses. I examined the role of herbivores by incorporating herbivore manipulations to short- and long-term warming experiments as well as along altitudinal gradients. I measured how individual plants and plant communities respond to warming with and without herbivores.

Results of my PhD Thesis illustrate several ways how herbivores modify the responses of plants to warming. I found that herbivores (reindeer, hare, voles, lemmings) may prevent lowland forbs from invading open tundra.  Herbivores might also protect small tundra forbs from being outcompeted by taller and denser vegetation under climate warming. Thus, different herbivore pressures may lead to differing plant abundances and distribution shifts in different areas. Furthermore, my results show that high herbivore pressure can reverse the effects of long-term climate warming very rapidly, even in one year. This finding suggests that well-planned targeted reindeer grazing episodes could potentially be used as a conservation tool to keep selected tundra habitats open. Sudden cessation of grazing may initiate rapid changes in plant community, especially if it coincides with warm temperatures. Taken together, I show that herbivores counteract the effects of climate warming by slowing down or preventing vegetation changes in tundra. Therefore, it is important to consider mammalian herbivores when predicting tundra plant community responses to changing climate.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2014. 23 p.
Climate change, warming, grazer, Rangifer, Lemmus lemmus, species distribution, biotic interactions, altitude
National Category
Research subject
biology, Environmental Science
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-85208 (URN)978-91-7459-782-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-02-21, KBC-huset, Stora hörsalen, KB3B1, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2014-01-31 Created: 2014-01-30 Last updated: 2014-01-30Bibliographically approved

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Kaarlejärvi, ElinaOlofsson, Johan
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