Article

AMBIO

, 40:660

First online:

Four Decades of Plant Community Change in the Alpine Tundra of Southwest Yukon, Canada

  • Ryan K. DanbyAffiliated withDepartment of Geography and School of Environmental Studies, Queen’s University Email author 
  • , Saewan KohAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
  • , David S. HikAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
  • , Larry W. PriceAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, Portland State University

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Abstract

Repeat measurements from long-term plots provide precise data for studying plant community change. In 2010, we visited a remote location in Yukon, Canada, where a detailed survey of alpine tundra communities was conducted in 1968. Plant community composition was resurveyed on the same four slopes using the same methods as the original study. Species richness and diversity increased significantly over the 42 years and non-metric multidimensional scaling indicated that community composition had also changed significantly. However, the direction and magnitude of change varied with aspect. Dominant species were not replaced or eliminated but, instead, declined in relative importance. Fine-scale changes in vegetation were evident from repeat photography and dendro-ecological analysis of erect shrubs, supporting the community-level analysis. The period of study corresponds to a mean annual temperature increase of 2°C, suggesting that climate warming has influenced these changes.

Keywords

Tundra Yukon Climate change Arctic–alpine Community ecology