, Volume 142, Issue 4, pp 616–626 | Cite as

Warming chambers stimulate early season growth of an arctic sedge: results of a minirhizotron field study

  • Patrick F. Sullivan
  • Jeffrey M. Welker
Ecosystem Ecology


We examined the effects of passive open-top warming chambers on Eriophorum vaginatum production near Toolik Lake, Alaska, USA. During the 2002 growing season, chamber warming was consistent with the magnitude and seasonality observed in recent decades throughout northwestern North America. Leaf-growth rates were higher in late May and early June; maximum growth rates in each leaf cohort occurred earlier and peak biomass was observed 20 days earlier within the chambers. Consequently, plants within the chambers maintained more live leaf biomass during the period of highest photosynthetically active radiation. Annual leaf production within the chambers (21±2 mg tiller) was not significantly different than under ambient conditions (17±2 mg tiller) (P=0.2256) despite higher early-season growth rates. Root growth began earlier; growth rates were higher in late May and early June, and maximum growth rates occurred earlier within the chambers. Therefore, plants within the chambers maintained greater root biomass during what earlier studies have identified as a period of relatively high nutrient availability. Annual root production within the chambers (191±42 g m−2) was not significantly different than under ambient conditions (119±48 g m−2) (P=0.1979), although there was a trend toward higher production within the chambers. The tendency toward higher root production within the chambers is consistent with previous laboratory experiments and with the predictions of biomass allocation theory.


Eriophorum vaginatum Functional equilibrium Leaf production Passive warming Root production 



This project was supported by the NSF Office of Polar Programs research grants OPP-9907356, 0196345 and 0120589. We thank C. Bilbrough for proposal contributions, A. Parsons for provision of 1994 micro-meteorological data from the ITEX plots, J. Fahnestock and R. Piper for installing the minirhizotrons, D. Binkley, G. Shaver and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments during manuscript preparation, G. Shaver and the Toolik Lake LTER (NSF-DEB-9810222) for use of meteorological data from the neighboring LTER site, and S. Arens and K. Olin for field and laboratory assistance.


  1. Arft AM, Walker MD, Gurevitch J, Alatalo JM, Bret-Harte MS, Dale M, Diemer M, Gugerli F, Henry GHR, Jones MH, Hollister RT, Jónsdóttir IS, Laine K, Lévesque E, Marion GM, Molau U, Mø lgaard P, Nordenhäll U, Raszhivin V, Robinson CH, Starr G, Stenström A, Stenström M, Totland ø , Turner PL, Walker LJ, Webber PJ, Welker JM, Wookey PA (1999) Responses of tundra plants to experimental warming: meta-analysis of the international tundra experiment. Ecol Monogr 69(4):491–511Google Scholar
  2. Bret-Harte MS, Shaver GR, Zoerner JP, Johnstone JF, Wagner JL, Chavez AS, Gunkelman RF, Lippert SC, Laundre JA (2001) Developmental plasticity allows Betula nana to dominate tundra subjected to an altered environment. Ecology 82(1):18–32Google Scholar
  3. Bret-Harte MS, Shaver GR, Chapin FS III (2002) Primary and secondary stem growth in arctic shrubs: implications for community response to environmental change. J Ecol 90(2):251–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brouwer R (1962) Nutritive influences on the distribution of dry matter in the plant. Neth J Agric Sci 10(5):399–408Google Scholar
  5. Chapin FS III, Van Cleve K, Chapin MC (1979) Soil temperature and nutrient cycling in the tussock growth form of Eriophorum vaginatum. J Ecol 67:169–189Google Scholar
  6. Chapin FS III (1983) Direct and indirect effects of temperature on arctic plants. Polar Biol 2(1):47–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chapin FS III, Shaver GR (1985) Individualistic growth response of tundra plant species to environmental manipulations in the field. Ecology 66(2):564–576Google Scholar
  8. Chapin FS III, Fetcher N, Kielland K, Everett KR, Linkins AE (1988) Productivity and nutrient cycling of Alaskan tundra: enhancement by flowing soil water. Ecology 69(3):693–702Google Scholar
  9. Chapin FS III, Shaver GR, Giblin AE, Nadelhoffer KJ, Laundre JA (1995) Responses of arctic tundra to experimental and observed changes in climate. Ecology 76(3):694–711Google Scholar
  10. Chapin FS III, Shaver GR (1996) Physiological and growth responses of arctic plants to a field experiment simulating climatic change. Ecology 77:822–840Google Scholar
  11. Chapin FS III, McGuire AD, Randerson J, Pielke R Sr, Baldocchi D, Hobbie SE, Roulet N, Eugster W, Kasischke E, Rastetter EB, Zimov SA, Running SW (2000) Arctic and boreal ecosystems of western North America as components of the climate system. Global Change Biol 6 [Suppl]:211–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davidson RL (1969) Effect of root/leaf temperature differentials on root/shoot ratios in some pasture grasses and clover. Ann Bot 33:571–577Google Scholar
  13. Defoliart LS, Griffith M, Chapin FS III, Jonasson S (1988) Seasonal patterns of photosynthesis and nutrient storage in Eriophorum vaginatum L., an arctic sedge. Funct Ecol 2:185–194Google Scholar
  14. Eviner VT, Chapin FS III (2003) Functional matrix: a conceptual framework for predicting multiple plant effects on ecosystem processes. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 34:455–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Farrar JF, Jones DL (2000) The control of carbon acquisition by roots. New Phytol 147(1):43–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hamilton TD (1986) Late Cenozoic glaciation of the central Brooks Range. In: Hamilton TD, Reid KM, Thorson RM (eds) Glaciation in Alaska: the geologic record. Alaska Geologic Society, Anchorage, Alaska, pp 9–49Google Scholar
  17. Hendrick RL, Pregitzer KS (1996) Applications of minirhizotrons to understand root function in forests and other natural ecosystems. Plant Soil 185:293–304Google Scholar
  18. Hobbie SE (1992) Effects of plant species on nutrient cycling. Trends Ecol Evol 7:336–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hobbie SE (1996) Temperature and plant species control over litter decomposition in Alaskan tundra. Ecol Monogr 66(4):503–522Google Scholar
  20. Hobbie SE, Chapin FS III (1998) The response of tundra plant biomass, aboveground production, nitrogen, and CO2 flux to experimental warming. Ecology 79(5):1526–1544Google Scholar
  21. Hobbie SE, Shevtsova A, Chapin FS III (1999) Plant responses to experimental warming and species removal in Alaskan tussock tundra. Oikos 84(3):417–434Google Scholar
  22. Hollister RD, Webber PJ (2000) Biotic validation of small open-top chambers in a tundra ecosystem. Global Change Biol 6:835–842CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Itoh S (1985) In situ measurement of rooting density by micro-rhizotron. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 31:653–656Google Scholar
  24. Johnson MG, Tingey DT, Phillips DL, Storm MJ (2001) Advancing fine root research with minirhizotrons. Environ Exp Bot 45:263–289CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Jonasson S, Chapin FS III (1985) Significance of sequential leaf development for nutrient balance of the cotton sedge, Eriophorum vaginatum L. Oecologia 67:511–518Google Scholar
  26. Jones MH, Fahnestock JT, Walker DA, Walker MD, Welker JM (1998) Carbon dioxide fluxes in moist and dry arctic tundra during the snow-free season: responses to increases in summer temperature and winter snow accumulation. Arct Alp Res 30(4):373–380Google Scholar
  27. Kummerow J, McMaster GS, Krause DA (1980) Temperature effect on growth and nutrient contents in Eriophorum vaginatum under controlled environmental conditions. Arct Alp Res 12(3):335–341Google Scholar
  28. Kummerow J, Ellis B (1984) Temperature effect on biomass production and root/shoot biomass ratios in two arctic sedges under controlled environmental conditions. Can J Bot 62:2150–2153Google Scholar
  29. Lambers H (1983) The functional equilibrium, nibbling on the edges of a paradigm. Neth J Agric Sci 31:305–311Google Scholar
  30. Lauenroth WK (2000) Methods of estimating belowground net primary production. In: Sala OE, Jackson RB, Mooney HA, Howarth RW (eds) Methods in ecosystem science. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 58–69Google Scholar
  31. Levin SA (1992) The problem of pattern and scale in ecology. Ecology 73(6):1943–1967Google Scholar
  32. Loya WM, Johnson LC, Nadelhoffer KJ (2004) Seasonal dynamics of leaf- and root-derived C in arctic tundra mesocosms. Soil Biol Biochem 36(4):655–666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Marion GM, Henry GHR, Freckman DW, Johnstone J, Jones G, Jones MH, Levesque E, Molau U, Mø lgaard P, Parsons AN, Svoboda J, Virginia RA (1997) Open-top designs for manipulating field temperature in high-latitude ecosystems. Global Change Biol 3 [Suppl]:20–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Molau U, Mølgaard P (1996) ITEX Manual, 2nd edn. Danish Polar Center, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  35. Nadelhoffer KJ, Giblin AE, Shaver GR, Linkins AE (1992) Microbial processes and plant nutrient availability in arctic soils. In: Chapin FS III, Jefferies RL, Reynolds JF, Shaver GR, Svoboda J (eds) Arctic ecosystems in a changing climate: an ecophysiological perspective. Academic, San Diego, pp 281–300Google Scholar
  36. Poorter H, Nagel O (2000) The role of biomass allocation in the growth response of plants to different levels of light, CO2, nutrients and water: a quantitative review. Aust J Plant Physiol 27:595–607Google Scholar
  37. Quested HM, Press MC, Callaghan TV (2003) Litter of the hemiparasite Bartsia alpina enhances plant growth: evidence for a functional role in nutrient cycling. Oecologia 135(4):606–614Google Scholar
  38. Ruess RW, Hendrick RL, Burton AJ, Pregitzer KS, Sveinbjornsson B, Allen MF, Maurer GE (2003) Coupling fine root dynamics with ecosystem carbon balance in black spruce forests of interior Alaska. Ecol Monogr 73(4):643–662Google Scholar
  39. Sanders JL, Brown DA (1978) A new fiber optic technique for measuring root growth of soybeans under field conditions. Agron J 70:1073–1076Google Scholar
  40. SAS Institute (1999) SAS/STAT Users Guide. Version 8.2. SAS Institute, CaryGoogle Scholar
  41. Schimel JP, Bilbrough C, Welker JM (2004) Increased snow depth affects microbial activity and nitrogen mineralization in two Arctic tundra communities. Soil Biol Biochem 36(2):217–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Serreze MC, Walsh JE, Chapin FS III, Osterkamp T, Dyurgerov M, Romanovsky V, Oechel WC, Morison J, Zhang T, Barry RG (2000) Observational evidence of recent change in the northern high-latitude environment. Clim Change 46:159–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shaver GR, Cutler J (1979) The vertical distribution of phytomass in cottongrass- tussock tundra. Arct Alp Res 11:335–342Google Scholar
  44. Shaver GR, Chapin FS III, Gartner BL (1986) Factors limiting seasonal growth and peak biomass accumulation in Eriophorum vaginatum in Alaskan tussock tundra. J Ecol 74:257–278Google Scholar
  45. Starr G, Oberbauer SF (2003) Photosynthesis of arctic evergreens under snow: implications for tundra ecosystem carbon balance. Ecology 84(6):1415–1420Google Scholar
  46. Walker MD, Walker DA, Auerbach NA (1994) Plant communities of a tussock tundra landscape in the Brookes Range Foothills, Alaska. J Veg Sci 5(6):843–866Google Scholar
  47. Walker MD, Walker DA, Welker JM, Arft AM, Bardsley T, Brooks PD, Fahnestock JT, Jones MH, Losleben M, Parsons AN, Seastedt TR, Turner PL (1999) Long-term experimental manipulation of winter snow regime and summer temperature in arctic and alpine tundra. Hydrol Process 13:2315–2330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Welker JM, Wookey PA, Parsons AN, Press MC, Callaghan TV, Lee JA (1993) Leaf carbon isotope discrimination and vegetative responses of Dryas octopetala to temperature and water manipulations in a high arctic polar semi-desert, Svalbard. Oecologia 94(5):463–469Google Scholar
  49. Welker JM, Molau U, Parsons AN, Robinson CH, Wookey PA (1997) Responses of Dryas octopetala to ITEX environmental manipulations: a synthesis with circumpolar comparisons. Global Change Biol 3:61–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Welker JM, Fahnestock JT, Jones MH (2000) Annual CO2 flux in dry and moist arctic tundra: field responses to increases in summer temperatures and winter snow depth. Clim Change 44:139–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Degree Program in EcologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Natural Resource Ecology LaboratoryColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

Personalised recommendations