Alpine Botany

, Volume 124, Issue 2, pp 81–91 | Cite as

Climate change and climatic events: community-, functional- and species-level responses of bryophytes and lichens to constant, stepwise, and pulse experimental warming in an alpine tundra

  • Juha M. AlataloEmail author
  • Annika K. Jägerbrand
  • Ulf Molau


We experimentally imposed three different kinds of warming scenarios over 3 years on an alpine meadow community to identify the differential effects of climate warming and extreme climatic events on the abundance and biomass of bryophytes and lichens. Treatments consisted of (a) a constant level of warming with open top chambers (an average temperature increase of 1.87 °C), (b) a yearly stepwise increase of warming (average temperature increases of 1.0; 1.87 and 3.54 °C, consecutively), and (c) a pulse warming, i.e., a single first year pulse event of warming (average temperature increase of 3.54 °C only during the first year). To our knowledge, this is the first climate change study that attempts to distinguish between the effects of constant, stepwise and pulse warming on bryophyte and lichen communities. We hypothesised that pulse warming would have a significant short-term effect compared to the other warming treatments, and that stepwise warming would have a significant mid-term effect compared to the other warming treatments. Acrocarpous bryophytes as a group increased in abundance and biomass to the short-term effect of pulse warming. We found no significant effects of mid-term (third-year) stepwise warming. However, one pleurocarpous bryophyte species, Tomentypnum nitens, generally increased in abundance during the warm year 1997 but decreased in control plots and in response to the stepwise warming treatment. Three years of experimental warming (all treatments as a group) did have a significant impact at the community level, yet changes in abundance did not translate into significant changes in the dominance hierarchies at the functional level (for acrocarpous bryophytes, pleurocarpous bryophytes, Sphagnum or lichens), or in significant changes in other bryophyte or lichen species. The results suggest that bryophytes and lichens, both at the functional group and species level, to a large extent are resistant to the different climate change warming simulations that were applied.


Bryophytes Climate change Extreme climatic event Lichens Resilience Warming 



The authors thank two anonymous reviewers and Christian Rixen for their comments that improved the manuscript. We thank the staff of Abisko Scientific Research Station for help and hospitality, Vivian Aldén, Björn Aldén and Olga Khitun for assistance in the field. This study was supported by an NFR grant (B-AA/BU 08424) to UM.

Supplementary material

35_2014_133_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.6 mb)
Fig. S1 Boxplots of abundance on species level of bryophytes after different warming treatments and years at Latnjajaure. A) Anthelia juratzkana, B) Aulacomnium turgidum, C) Blepharostoma trichophyllum, D) Dicranum elongatum, E) Dicranum groenlandicum, F) Hylocomium splendens, G) Polytrichum strictum, H) Ptilidium ciliare, and I) Sphagnum warnstorfii. Treatments: control (Control), constant warming enhancement using open-top chambers (OTC), a stepwise increase in the magnitude of warming (Step) and a single-summer high-impact warming event (Pulse). Boxplots show the 10th to 90th percentile of the data; n = 4 plots per treatment. Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2,626 kb)
35_2014_133_MOESM2_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
Fig. S2 Boxplots of the abundance at the species level for lichens after different warming treatments and years at Latnjajaure Field Station. A) Cladina arbuscula, B) Cladonia uncialis, C) Ochrolechia frigida, and D) Sphaerophorus globosus. Treatments: control (Control), constant warming using open-top chambers (OTC), a stepwise increase in the magnitude of warming (Step) and a single-summer high-impact warming event (Pulse). Boxplots show the 10th to 90th percentile of the data; n = 4 plots per treatment. Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 1,173 kb)
35_2014_133_MOESM3_ESM.docx (102 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 101 kb)


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Copyright information

© Swiss Botanical Society 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juha M. Alatalo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Annika K. Jägerbrand
    • 2
  • Ulf Molau
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and GeneticsUppsala University, Campus GotlandVisbySweden
  2. 2.VTI, Swedish National Road and Transport Research InstituteStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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