The effects of snowpack properties and plant strategies on litter decomposition during winter in subalpine meadows
- 995 Downloads
Climate-induced changes in snow cover are likely to affect cold arctic and alpine ecosystems functioning and major processes such as wintertime plant litter decomposition. However, it remains poorly studied in subalpine systems where the snowpack may be irregular. In this paper we explored the dynamic of the winter plant litter decomposition process, its magnitude and its relationship with the snowpack properties.
In subalpine grasslands of the Central French Alps, we performed a litter bag experiment monitoring over a whole winter the litter decomposition from the exploitative Dactylis glomerata and the conservative Festuca paniculata, under two contiguous experimental sites with snowpacks differing in depth and physical properties.
Litter decomposition rates were stable during winter and 3-fold higher under deeper and permanent snowpack with higher thermal resistance. Litter quality appeared only significant under thinner snowpack with higher decomposition rates for the exploitative species. A snowpack with higher thermal resistance created an insulating layer promoting the decomposition process.
These results suggest that the temporal (permanence vs. intermittency) and physical (depth and thermal resistance) characteristics of the snowpack should be considered when studying the response of winter ecosystems functioning to global changes.
KeywordsPlant litter decomposition Snow depth Snowpack permanence Thermal resistance Subalpine meadows
We were grateful to the Station Alpine Joseph Fourier (SAJF) for providing field logistics and facilities during the field campaign. We thank OSUG, CNRS-LECA and the “Zone-Atelier-Alpes” of CNRS for providing fundings to the exploratory project “NEVE”. We thank Charlotte Colomb for help in the field, the lab and the first analyses of the data. We thank Gérald Giraud and Jean-Marie Willemet (CNRM-GAME/CEN) for help with handling SAFRAN and ancillary meteorological stations. We thank Renato Gerdol and an anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments on the early version of the manuscript.
- Brun E, David P, Sudul M, Brunot G (1992) A numerical model to simulate snowcover stratigraphy for operational avalanche forecasting. J Glaciol 38:13–22Google Scholar
- Christensen JH, Hewitson B, Busuioc A, Chen A, Gao X, Held I, Jones R, Koli RK, Kwon W-T, Laprise R, Magaña Rueda V, Mearns L, Menéndez CG, Räisänen J, Rinke A, Sarr A, Whetton P (2007) Regional climate projections. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M et al (eds) Climate change 2007: The physical basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp 848–940Google Scholar
- Cline D (1995) Snow surface energy exchanges and snowmelt at a continental alpine site. In: Tonnessen K, Williams MW, Tranter M (eds) Biogeochemistry of seasonnally snow-covered basins. International Association for Hydrological Sciences, Wallingford, pp 157–166Google Scholar
- Cornelissen JHC, Van Bodegom PM, Aerts R, Callaghan TV, Van Logtestijn RSP, Alatalo J, Stuart Chapin F, Gerdol R, Gudmundsson J, Gwynn-Jones D, Hartley AE, Hik DS, Hofgaard A, Jónsdóttir IS, Karlsson S, Klein JA, Laundre J, Magnusson B, Michelsen A, Molau U, Onipchenko VG, Quested HM, Sandvik SM, Schmidt IK, Shaver GR, Solheim B, Soudzilovskaia NA, Stenström A, Tolvanen A, Totland Ø, Wada N, Welker JM, Zhao X, Team MOL (2007) Global negative vegetation feedback to climate warming responses of leaf litter decomposition rates in cold biomes. Ecol Lett 10:619–627PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Cornwell WK, Cornelissen JHC, Amatangelo K, Dorrepaal E, Eviner VT, Godoy O, Hobbie SE, Hoorens B, Kurokawa H, Pérez-Harguindeguy N, Quested HM, Santiago LS, Wardle DA, Wright IJ, Aerts R, Allison SD, Van Bodegom P, Brovkin V, Chatain A, Callaghan TV, Díaz S, Garnier E, Gurvich DE, Kazakou E, Klein JA, Read J, Reich PB, Soudzilovskaia NA, Vaieretti MV, Westoby M (2008) Plant species traits are the predominant control on litter decomposition rates within biomes worldwide. Ecol Lett 11:1065–1071PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Daget P, Poisonnet J (1971) Une méthode d’analyse phytosociologique des prairies. Ann Agron 22:5–41Google Scholar
- Domine F, Taillandier AS, Houdier S, Parrenin F, Simpson WR, Douglas TA (2007) Interactions between snow metamorphism and climate: Physical and chemical aspects. In: Kuhs WF (ed) Physics and chemistry of ice. Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, pp 27–46Google Scholar
- Durand Y, Giraud G, Brun E, Mérindol L, Martin E (1999) A computer-based system simulating snowpack structure as a tool for regional avalanche forecasting. J Glaciology 45:469–484Google Scholar
- Durand Y, Laternser M, Giraud G, Etchevers P, Lesaffre B, Mérindol L (2009b) Reanalysis of 44 years of climate in the French Alps (1958–2002): methodology, model validation, climatology and trends for air temperature and precipitation. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 48:429–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Elmendorf SC, Henry GHR, Hollister RD, Björk RG, Bjorkman AD, Callaghan TV, Siegwart Collier L, Cooper EJ, Cornelissen JHC, Day TA, Fosaa AM, Gould WA, Grétarsdóttir J, Harte J, Hermanutz L, Hik DS, Hofgaard A, Jarrad F, Jónsdóttir IS, Keuper F, Klanderud K, Klein JA, Koh S, Kudo G, Lang SI, Loewen V, May JL, Mercado J, Michelsen A, Molau U, Myers-Smith IH, Oberbauer SF, Pieper S, Post E, Rixen C, Robinson CH, Schmidt NM, Shaver GR, Stenström A, Tolvanen A, Totland O, Troxler T, Wahren CH, Webber PJ, Welker JM, Wookey PA (2012) Global assessment of experimental climate warming on tundra vegetation: heterogeneity over space and time. Ecol Lett 15:164–175PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Pickett ST, White PS (1985) The ecology of natural disturbance and patch dynamics. Academic, OrlandoGoogle Scholar
- Pinheiro J, Bates D, DebRoy R, Sakar D, Team RDC (2011) nlme; linear and nonlinear mixed effects models. 3.1–102 ednGoogle Scholar
- R Development Core Team (2009) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
- Shaw MR, Harte J (2001) Control of litter decomposition in a subalpine meadow-sagebrush steppe ecotone under climate change. Ecol Appl 11:1206–1223Google Scholar
- Sturm M, Holmgren J, König M, Morris K (1997) The thermal conductivity of seasonal snow. J Glaciol 43:26–41Google Scholar
- Walker MD, Wahren CH, Hollister RD, Henry GHR, Ahlquist LE, Alatalo JM, Bret-Harte MS, Calef MP, Callaghan TV, Carroll AB, Epstein HE, Jónsdóttir IS, Klein JA, Magnùsson B, Molau U, Oberbauer SF, Rewa SP, Robinson CH, Shaver GR, Suding KN, Thompson CC, Tolvanen A, Totland O, Turner PL, Tweedie CE, Webber PJ, Wookey PA (2006) Plant community responses to experimental warming across the tundra biome. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:1342–1346PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Warnes GR, Bolker B, Bonebakker L, Gentleman R, Huber W, Liaw A, Lumley T, Maechler M, Magnusson A, Moeller S, Schwartz M, Venables B (2011) gplots: various R programming tools for plotting data. R package version 2.10.1 ednGoogle Scholar