, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 67-70

Simulated climate change: the interaction between vegetation type and microhabitat temperatures at Ny Ålesund, Svalbard

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Abstract

Small polythene tents were used to simulate the effects of climate warming on two contrasting vegetation types (polar semi-desert and tundra heath) at Ny Ålesund, Spitzbergen, Svalbard. Temperature microclimates are compared within and without tents and between sites with contrasting vegetation types. Summer temperatures were increased by about 5°C in the vegetation mat and by about 2°C in the soil at 3 cm depth. Cumulative day degrees above zero were enhanced by around 35% in the vegetation and by around 9% in the soil. Soil temperatures were greatly influenced by the nature of the overlying vegetation, which at one of the sites appeared to act as an efficient thermal insulator, preventing heat conductance into the soil from above and enhancing thermal contact between the upper soil layer and the cooling permafrost below. The significance of the observed temperature differences for the ecology of the plants and invertebrates is discussed.