Oecologia

, Volume 99, Issue 3–4, pp 322–328

Vascular plants as bioindicators of regional warming in Antarctica

  • R. I. Lewis Smith
Original Paper

Abstract

Monitoring selected populations of the only two native Antarctic vascular plant species (Colobanthus quitensis andDeschampsia antarctica) over a 27-year period has revealed a significant and relatively rapid increase in numbers of individuals and populations at two widely separated localities in the maritime Antarctic. There is strong evidence that this increase is a response to a warming trend in summer air temperatures, which has been evident throughout the region since the late 1940s, enhancing seed maturation, germination and seedling survival. This study provides the only known long-term monitoring data for any terrestrial organisms in Antarc-tica. Because their response to ameliorating conditions is more rapid than that of the dominant cryptogamic groups, Antarctic phanerogams may be useful bioindicators of climate change in West Antarctica.

Key words

Colobanthus quitensis Deschampsia antarctica Population increase Antarctica Climate warming 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Birkenmajer K, Ochyra R, Olsson IU, Stuchlik L (1985) Mid-Holocene radiocarbon-dated peat at Admiralty Bay, King George Island (South Shetland Islands, West Antarctica). Bull Pol Acad Sci Earth Sci 33:7–13Google Scholar
  2. Bradshaw AD, McNeilly T (1991) Evolutionary response to global change. Ann Bot 67:5–14Google Scholar
  3. Bretherton FP, Bryan K, Woods JD (1990) Time-dependent greenhouse-gas-induced climate change. In: Houghton JT, Jenkins GJ, Ephraums JJ (eds) Climate change. The IPCC scientific assessment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 173–193Google Scholar
  4. Bryan K, Manabe S, Spelman MJ (1988) Interhemispheric asymmetry in the transient response of a coupled ocean-atmosphere model to a CO2 forcing. J Phys Oceanogr 18:851–867Google Scholar
  5. Budd WF, McInnes BJ, Jenssen D, Smith N (1987) In: van der Veen CJ, Oerlemans J (eds) Dynamics of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Reidel, Dordrecht, pp 321–358Google Scholar
  6. Callaghan TV, Sonesson M, Sömme L (1992) Responses of terrestrial plants and invertebrates to environment change at high latitudes. In: Drewry DJ, Pyle J, Laws RM (eds) Antarctica and environmental change. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 338:279–288Google Scholar
  7. Chapin FS, Jefferies RJ, Reynolds JF, Shaver GR, Svoboda J (1992) Arctic ecosystems in a changing climate. An ecophysiological perspective. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Collins NJ (1976) The development of moss-peat banks in relation to changing climate and ice cover on Signy Island in the maritime Antarctic. Br Antarct Surv Bull 43:85–102Google Scholar
  9. Corner RWM (1971) Studies inColobanthus quitensis (Kunth) Bartl. andDeschampsia antarctica Desv. IV. Distribution and reproductive performance in the Argentine Islands. Br Antarct Surv Bull 26:41–50Google Scholar
  10. Corner RWM, Smith RIL (1973) Botanical evidence of ice recession in the Argentine Islands. Br Antarct Surv Bull 35:83–86Google Scholar
  11. Edwards JA (1972) Studies inColobanthus quitensis (Kunth) Bartl. andDeschampsia antarctica Desv. V. Distribution, ecology and vegetative performance on Signy Island. Br Antarct Surv Bull 28:11–28Google Scholar
  12. Edwards JA (1974) Studies inColobanthus quitensis (Kunth) Bartl. andDeschampsia antarctica Desv. VI. Reproductive performance on Signy Island. Br Antarct Surv Bull 39:67–86Google Scholar
  13. Fenton JHC (1982) Vegetation re-exposed after burial by ice and its relationship to changing climate in the South Orkney Islands. Br Antarct Surv Bull 51:247–255Google Scholar
  14. Folland CK, Karl TR, Vinnikov KYa (1990) Observed climate variations and change. In: Houghton JT, Jenkins GJ, Ephraums JJ (eds) Climate change. The IPCC scientific assessment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 195–238Google Scholar
  15. Fowbert JA, Smith RIL (1994) Rapid population increases in native vascular plants in the Argentine Islands, Antarctic Peninsula. Arct Alp Res 26:290–296Google Scholar
  16. Frenot Y, Gloaguen JC, Picot G, Bougère J, Benjamin D (1993)Azorella selago Hook. used to estimate glacier fluctuations in climatic history in the Kerguelen Islands over the last two centuries. Oecologia 95:140–144Google Scholar
  17. Greene DM, Holtom A (1971) Studies inColobanthus quitensis (Kunth) Bartl. andDeschampsia antarctica Desv. III. Distribution, habitats and performance in the Antartic botanical zone. Br Antarct Surv Bull 26:1–29Google Scholar
  18. Grime JP (1990) Ecological effects of climate change on plant populations and vegetation composition with particular reference to the British flora. In: Jackson MT, Ford-Lloyd BV, Parry ML (eds) Climatic change and plant genetic resources. Bellhaven Press, London, pp 40–60Google Scholar
  19. Hall DO, Scurlock JMO (1991) Climatic change and productivity of natural grasslands. Ann Bot 67 (Suppl 1):49–55Google Scholar
  20. Hall KJ, Walton DWH (1992) Rock weathering, soil development and colonization under a changing climate. In: Drewry DJ, Pyle J, Laws RM (eds) Antarctica and environmental change. Philos Trans R Soc B 338:269–277Google Scholar
  21. Havström M, Callaghan TV, Jonasson S (1993) Differential growth responses ofCassiope tetragona, an arctic dwarfshrub, to environmental perturbations among three contrasting high- and subarctic sites. Oikos 66:389–402Google Scholar
  22. Holtom A, Greene SW (1967) The growth and reproduction of Antarctic flowering plants. In: Smith JE (organizer) A discussion on the terrestrial Antarctic ecosystem. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B252:323–337Google Scholar
  23. Houghton JT, Seck M, Moura AD (1990) Executive summary. In: Houghton JT, Jenkins GJ, Ephraums JJ (eds) Climate change. The IPCC scientific assessment. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, pp xi-xxxivGoogle Scholar
  24. Huntley B (1991) How plants respond to climatic change: migration routes, individualism and the consequences for plant communities. Ann Bot 67:15–22Google Scholar
  25. Jones PD (1990) Antarctic temperatures over the present century — a study of the early expedition record. J Climate 3: 1193–1203Google Scholar
  26. King JC (1994) Recent climate variability in the vicinity of the Antarctic Peninsula. Int J Climatol 14:357–369Google Scholar
  27. Leemans R (1989) Possible changes in natural vegetation patterns due to global warming. In: Hackl T (ed) Der Treibhauseffekt: das Problem — mögliche Folgen — erforderliche Massnahmen. Akademie für Umwelt und Energie, Laxenburg Austria, pp 105–122Google Scholar
  28. Mellio JM, Callaghan TV, Woodward FI, Salati E, Sinha SK (1990) Effects on ecosystems. In: Houghton JT, Jenkins GJ, Ephraums JJ (eds) Climate change. the IPCC scientific assessment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 283–310Google Scholar
  29. Mitchell JFB, Manabe S, Meleshko V, Tokoka T (1990) Equilibrium climate change — and its implications for the future. In: Houghton JT, Jenkins GJ, Ephraums JJ (eds) Clmate change. The IPCC scientific assessment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 131–172Google Scholar
  30. Moore DM (1970) Studies onColobanthus quitensis (Kunth) Bartl. andDeschampsia antarctica Desv. II. Taxonomy, distribution and relationships. Br Antarct Surv Bull 23:63–80Google Scholar
  31. Ojima DS, Kittel TGF, Rosswall T, Walker BH (1990) Critical issues for understanding global change effects on terrestrial ecosystems. Ecol Applic 1:316–325Google Scholar
  32. Sansom J (1989) Antarctic surface temperature time series. J Climate 2:1164–1171Google Scholar
  33. Smith RIL (1982) Plant succession and re-exposed moss banks on a deglaciated headland in Arthur Harbour, Anvers Island. Br Antarct Surv Bull 51:193–199Google Scholar
  34. Smith RIL (1984) Terrestrial plant biology of the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic. In: Laws RM (ed) Antarctic ecology, vol 1. Academic Press, London, pp 61–162Google Scholar
  35. Smith RIL (1988) Recording bryophyte microclimate in remote and severe environments. In: Glime JM (ed) Methods in bryology. Hattori Botanicial Laboratory, Nichinan, pp 275–284Google Scholar
  36. Smith RIL (1990) Signy Island as a paradigm of biological and environmental change in Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems. In: Kerry KR, Hempel G (eds) Antarctic ecosystems. Ecological change and conservation. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 32–50Google Scholar
  37. Smith RIL (1991) Exotic sporomorpha as indicators of potential immigrant colonists in Antarctica. Grana 30:313–324Google Scholar
  38. Smith RIL (1993) The role of bryophyte propagule banks in primary succession: case study of an Antarctic fellfield soil. In: Miles J, Walton DWH (eds) Primary succession on land. Blackwell, Oxfrod, pp 55–77Google Scholar
  39. Smith RIL, Poncet S (1987)Deschampsia antarctica andColobanthus quitensis in the Terra Firma Islands. Br Antarct Surv Bull 74:31–35Google Scholar
  40. Smith VR, Steenkamp M (1990) Climatic change and its ecological implications at a subantarctic island. Oecologia 85:14–24Google Scholar
  41. Stouffer RJ, Manabe S, Bryan K (1989) Interhemispheric asymmetry in climate response to a gradual increase of atmospheric CO2. Nature 342:660–662Google Scholar
  42. Street RB, Semenov SM (1990) Natural terrestrial ecosystems. In: Tegart WJMcG, Sheldon GW, Griffiths DC (eds) Climate change: the IPCC impacts assessment. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, pp 3.1–3.44Google Scholar
  43. Weller GE (1993) The role of Antarctica in global change. An international plan for a regional research programme. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  44. Woodward FI, Thompson GB, McKee JF (1991) The effects of elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide on individual plants, populations, communities and ecosystems. Ann Bot 67:23–38Google Scholar
  45. Wookey PA, Parsons AN, Welker JM, Potter JA, Callaghan TV, Lee JA, Press MC (1993) Comparative responses of phenology and reproductive development to simulated environmental change in sub-arctic and high arctic plants. Oikos 67:490–502Google Scholar
  46. Wynn-Williams DD (1993) Microbial processes and initial stabilisation of fellfield soils. In: Miles J, Walton DWH (eds) Primary succession on land. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 17–32Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. I. Lewis Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.British Antarctic SurveyNatural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations