Polar Biology

, Volume 34, Issue 10, pp 1421–1435 | Cite as

Microclimate impacts of passive warming methods in Antarctica: implications for climate change studies

  • Stef BokhorstEmail author
  • Ad Huiskes
  • Peter Convey
  • Brent J. Sinclair
  • Marc Lebouvier
  • Bart Van de Vijver
  • Diana H. Wall


Passive chambers are used to examine the impacts of summer warming in Antarctica but, so far, impacts occurring outside the growing season, or related to extreme temperatures, have not been reported, despite their potentially large biological significance. In this review, we synthesise and discuss the microclimate impacts of passive warming chambers (closed, ventilated and Open Top Chamber—OTC) commonly used in Antarctic terrestrial habitats, paying special attention to seasonal warming, during the growing season and outside, extreme temperatures and freeze–thaw events. Both temperature increases and decreases were recorded throughout the year. Closed chambers caused earlier spring soil thaw (8–28 days) while OTCs delayed soil thaw (3–13 days). Smaller closed chamber types recorded the largest temperature extremes (up to 20°C higher than ambient) and longest periods (up to 11 h) of above ambient extreme temperatures, and even OTCs had above ambient temperature extremes over up to 5 consecutive hours. The frequency of freeze–thaw events was reduced by ~25%. All chamber types experienced extreme temperature ranges that could negatively affect biological responses, while warming during winter could result in depletion of limited metabolic resources. The effects outside the growing season could be as important in driving biological responses as the mean summer warming. We make suggestions for improving season-specific warming simulations and propose that seasonal and changed temperature patterns achieved under climate manipulations should be recognised explicitly in descriptions of treatment effects.


Antarctica Climate change Climate warming Extreme event Open top chamber Passive warming chambers 



This work is an output of the IPY project TARANTELLA (Rilland the Netherlands 2006). We thank these colleagues for their insights and access to data. Research was financially supported by the Netherlands Polar Programme (NPP-NWO 851.20.016), BAS ‘Polar Science for Planet Earth’ core science programme, Antarctica, New Zealand, the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration, and the University of Otago, French Polar Institute (IPEV through Programmes 136 ECOBIO and 405 DIVCRO), the CNRS (Zone Atelier Recherche sur l’Environnement Antarctique et Subantarctique), the NSF OPP, and the McMurdo LTER. Thanks to many field assistants and David Wharton for support and discussion. Data from Signy and Alexander Island (closed and ventilated chambers) were provided by the British Antarctic Survey, Antarctic Microclimate Data (GB/NERC/BAS/AEDC/00002). This paper contributes to the SCAR ‘Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica’ scientific research programme.

Supplementary material

300_2011_997_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14 kb)
300_2011_997_MOESM2_ESM.tif (1.5 mb)
Effect of chamber types on monthly mean soil surface temperatures in the Antarctic. Temperature difference between chambers and control outside is shown on the y-axis. Chamber types: closed chambers (a-d), ventilated chambers (e and f), and OTCs (g-j) (TIFF 1547 kb)
300_2011_997_MOESM3_ESM.tif (1.3 mb)
Monthly mean, minimum and maximum soil temperatures at 5 cm depth with chamber and control plots. Range bars are minimum and maximum monthly temperatures, grey bars are chambers and the black with wider end caps are control values. Note that the chamber data points are slightly offset from the x-axis (TIFF 1318 kb)
300_2011_997_MOESM4_ESM.tif (1.4 mb)
Monthly mean, minimum and maximum soil surface temperatures with chamber and control plots. Range bars are minimum and maximum monthly temperatures, grey bars are chambers and the black with wider end caps are control values. Note that the chamber data points are slightly offset from the x-axis (TIFF 1449 kb)
300_2011_997_MOESM5_ESM.tif (1.5 mb)
Freeze–thaw events in and outside warming chambers in the Antarctic throughout the year. Freeze–thaw events were calculated from hourly data obtained from temperature sensors at the soil surface. Chamber types: closed chambers (a-d), ventilated chambers (e and f), and OTCs (g-j) (TIFF 1521 kb)
300_2011_997_MOESM6_ESM.doc (46 kb)
Supplementary material 6 (DOC 46 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stef Bokhorst
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ad Huiskes
    • 2
  • Peter Convey
    • 3
  • Brent J. Sinclair
    • 4
  • Marc Lebouvier
    • 5
  • Bart Van de Vijver
    • 6
  • Diana H. Wall
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)Unit for Polar EcologyYersekeThe Netherlands
  3. 3.British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK
  4. 4.Department of BiologyThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  5. 5.UMR 6553 Ecobio CNRS, Université de Rennes 1PaimpontFrance
  6. 6.Department of Cryptogamy (Bryophyta and Thallophyta)National Botanic Garden of BelgiumMeiseBelgium
  7. 7.Department of Biology and Natural Resource Ecology LaboratoryColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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