, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 547-559
Date: 08 Nov 2013

Ecological consequences through responses of plant and soil communities to changing winter climate

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Abstract

Community processes are now undergoing substantial reconfiguration because of climate change. Although the effects of climate change on ecosystems are currently a major concern, the issues tightly associated with winter climate change have been underrepresented. Given the importance of winter climate variables and events for determining the spatial distribution of communities and their phenological and physiological responses, and the functional roles of each species, all of which are expected to substantially influence community dis/re-assemble in the future, this review focuses on the ecological responses and consequences of terrestrial communities to changing winter climate. In particular, the effects on processes supported by biological interactions are largely undetermined. In this context, focusing on plant–soil feedback as a major interactive multi-system is worthwhile; these interactions can be disentangled through careful evaluation of the functional roles of organisms involved in the feedback (i.e., plants and soil organisms). The underlying mechanisms are indeed complex because direct (i.e., changes in physical conditions) and indirect pathways (i.e., plant-mediated influences on soil-organisms and vice versa) from winter climate change influence the functionality of future ecosystems. To face these issues, the framework of response–effect-traits deserves research priority since this can define community re-organization as the accumulated responses of individual species, which determines the stability and performance of ecosystem functioning. Thus, research that quantifies functional responses and roles of organisms under a changing climate will continue to be essential for the issues of winter climate change, which may become more serious and significant in the near future.

A. S. Mori and S. Fujii contributed equally to this paper.