Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

Temperature and delayed snowmelt jointly affect the vegetative and reproductive phenologies of four sub-Arctic plants

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Polar Biology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Over the coming decades, the Arctic is expected to experience warming temperatures and variable changes in the timing of snowmelt. Both temperature and the timing of snowmelt are important drivers of phenology and reproduction on the tundra. However, few studies have considered their combined effects, making it difficult to predict the direction and magnitude of Arctic plant responses to changing climates. In this 1-year study, we examine how temperature and delayed snowmelt jointly impact the phenology and reproductive effort/success of four common heath tundra species: Empetrum nigrum L., Rhododendron lapponicum (L.) Wahlenb., Dryas integrifolia Vahl, and Arctostaphylos rubra Fernald. We erected snow fences during the winter to increase snowpack on six plots (paired with six control plots), resulting in a consistent 10-day delay in the timing of snowmelt. During the subsequent growing season, we tracked how temperature and the delayed snowmelt on the treatment plots affected the day of onset of species’ phenophases, as well as their ability to flower and set fruit. Both temperature and snow addition were significant drivers of phenological onset in these species, though species showed different sensitivities to these factors, possibly as a result of differences in life history strategies. In addition, two of the four species responded positively to snow addition in terms of reproductive effort. Our results emphasize the importance of considering the simultaneous effects of the multiple drivers of Arctic plant phenology.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Aerts R, Cornelissen J, Dorrepaal E et al (2004) Effects of experimentally imposed climate scenarios on flowering phenology and flower production of subarctic bog species. Glob Change Biol 10:1599–1609

  • AMAP (2012) Arctic climate issues 2011: changes in Arctic snow, water, ice and permafrost. SWIPA 2011 overview report. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP)

  • Arft A, Walker M, Gurevitch J (1999) Responses of tundra plants to experimental warming: meta-analysis of the international tundra experiment. Ecol Monogr 69:491–511

    Google Scholar 

  • Bates D, Maechler M, Bolker B et al (2014) lme4: mixed-effects modelling with R. R package version 1.1-7. http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/lme4/index.html. Accessed 10 Oct 2014

  • Bokhorst SF, Bjerke JW, Tømmervik H et al (2009) Winter warming events damage sub-Arctic vegetation: consistent evidence from an experimental manipulation and a natural event. J Ecol 97:1408–1415

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Borner A, Kielland K, Walker M (2008) Effects of simulated climate change on plant phenology and nitrogen mineralization in Alaskan Arctic tundra. Arct Antarct Alp Res 40:27–38

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chapin FS III, Shaver G, Giblin A, Nadelhoffer KJ, Laundre JA (1995) Responses of Arctic tundra to experimental and observed changes in climate. Ecology 76:694–711

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cooper EJ, Dullinger S, Semenchuk P (2011) Late snowmelt delays plant development and results in lower reproductive success in the High Arctic. Plant Sci 180:157–167

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dawes MA, Hagedorn F, Zumbrunn T et al (2011) Growth and community responses of alpine dwarf shrubs to in situ CO2 enrichment and soil warming. New Phytol 191:806–818

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dorji T, Totland Ø, Moe SR et al (2013) Plant functional traits mediate reproductive phenology and success in response to experimental warming and snow addition in Tibet. Glob Change Biol 19:459–472

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunne JA, Harte J, Taylor KJ (2003) Subalpine meadow flowering phenology responses to climate change: integrating experimental and gradient methods. Ecol Monogr 73:69–86

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ellebjerg SM, Tamstorf MP, Illeris L et al (2008) Inter-annual variability and controls of plant phenology and productivity at Zackenberg. Adv Ecol Res 40:249–273

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Elmendorf SC, Henry GHR, Hollister RD et al (2012a) Global assessment of experimental climate warming on tundra vegetation: heterogeneity over space and time. Ecol Lett 15:164–175

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Elmendorf SC, Henry GHR, Hollister RD et al (2012b) Plot-scale evidence of tundra vegetation change and links to recent summer warming. Nat Clim Change 2:453–457

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hill GB, Henry GHR (2011) Responses of High Arctic wet sedge tundra to climate warming since 1980. Glob Change Biol 17:276–287

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hofgaard A, Løkken JO, Dalen L, Hytteborn H (2010) Comparing warming and grazing effects on birch growth in an alpine environment—a 10-year experiment. Plant Ecol Divers 3:19–27

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hollister R, Webber P, Bay C (2005) Plant response to temperature in Northern Alaska: implications for predicting vegetation change. Ecology 86:1562–1570

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hudson JMG, Henry GHR (2010) High Arctic plant community resists 15 years of experimental warming. J Ecol 98:1035–1041

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Klanderud K, Totland Ø (2005) Simulated climate change altered dominance hierarchies and diversity of an alpine biodiversity hotspot. Ecology 86:2047–2054

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Klein JA, Harte J, Zhao X (2004) Experimental warming causes large and rapid species loss, dampened by simulated grazing, on the Tibetan Plateau. Ecol Lett 7:1170–1179

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Klein JA, Harte J, Zhao X (2008) Decline in medicinal and forage species with warming is mediated by plant traits on the Tibetan Plateau. Ecosystems 11:775–789

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Legault G, Weis AR (2013) The impact of snow accumulation on a heath spider community in a sub-Arctic landscape. Polar Biol 36:885–894

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liu Y, Reich P, Li G, Sun S (2011) Shifting phenology and abundance under experimental warming alters trophic relationships and plant reproductive capacity. Ecology 92:1201–1207

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Markus T, Stroeve J, Miller J (2009) Recent changes in Arctic sea ice melt onset, freezeup, and melt season length. J Geophys Res Oceans 114:C12024

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Molau U (1993) Relationships between flowering phenology and life history strategies in tundra plants. Arct Alp Res 25:391–402

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Molau U, Nordenhäll U, Eriksen B (2005) Onset of flowering and climate variability in an alpine landscape: a 10-year study from Swedish Lapland. Am J Bot 92:422–431

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Myers-Smith IH, Forbes BC, Wilmking M et al (2011) Shrub expansion in tundra ecosystems: dynamics, impacts and research priorities. Environ Res Lett 6:045509

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oberbauer S, Elmendorf SC, Troxler T et al (2013) Phenological response of tundra plants to background climate variation tested using the International Tundra Experiment. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 368:20120481

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Olsson P, Sturm M (2003) Five stages of the Alaskan Arctic cold season with ecosystem implications. Arct Antarct Alp Res 35:74–81

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Post E, Pedersen C (2008) Opposing plant community responses to warming with and without herbivores. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:12353–12358

    Article  PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rafferty NE, Ives AR (2011) Effects of experimental shifts in flowering phenology on plant-pollinator interactions. Ecol Lett 14:69–74

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rumpf S, Semenchuk PR, Dullinger S, Cooper EJ (2014) Idiosyncratic responses of high Arctic plants to changing snow regimes. PLoS ONE 9(2):e86281

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Scott P, Rouse W (1995) Impacts of increased winter snow cover on upland tundra vegetation: a case example. Clim Res 5:25–30

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Semenchuk PR, Elberling B, Cooper EJ (2013) Snow cover and extreme winter warming events control flower abundance of some, but not all species in high Arctic Svalbard. Ecol Evol 3:2586–2599

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Serreze M, Walsh J, Chapin FS III (2000) Observational evidence of recent change in the northern high-latitude environment. Clim Change 46:159–207

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shaver G, Bret-Harte M, Jones M (2001) Species composition interacts with fertilizer to control long-term change in tundra productivity. Ecology 82:3163–3181

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith J, Sconiers W, Spasojevic MJ et al (2012) Phenological changes in alpine plants in response to increased snowpack, temperature, and nitrogen. Arct Antarct Alp Res 44:135–142

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Starr G, Oberbauer SF, Pop E (2000) Effects of lengthened growing season and soil warming on the phenology and physiology of Polygonum bistorta. Glob Change Biol 6:357–369

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stinson K (2005) Effects of snowmelt timing and neighbor density on the altitudinal distribution of Potentilla diversifolia in western Colorado, USA. Arct Antarct Alp Res 37:379–386

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sturm M, McFadden J, Liston G et al (2001) Snow-shrub interactions in Arctic tundra: a hypothesis with climatic implications. J Clim 14:336–344

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tape K, Sturm M, Racine C (2006) The evidence for shrub expansion in Northern Alaska and the Pan-Arctic. Glob Change Biol 12:686–702

  • Thórhallsdóttir T (1998) Flowering phenology in the central highland of Iceland and implications for climatic warming. Oecologia 114:43–49

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wahren CH, Walker MD, Bret-Harte MS (2005) Vegetation responses in Alaskan Arctic tundra after 8 years of a summer warming and winter snow manipulation experiment. Glob Change Biol 11:537–552

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walker M, Walker D, Welker J (1999) Long-term experimental manipulation of winter snow regime and summer temperature in Arctic and alpine tundra. Hydrol Process 13:2315–2330

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walker MD, Wahren CH, Hollister RD et al (2006) Plant community responses to experimental warming across the tundra biome. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:1342–1346

    Article  PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wang S, Duan J, Xu G et al (2012) Effects of warming and grazing on soil N availability, species composition, and ANPP in an alpine meadow. Ecology 93:2365–2376

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wipf S (2010) Phenology, growth, and fecundity of eight subArctic tundra species in response to snowmelt manipulations. Plant Ecol 207:53–66

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wipf S, Rixen C (2010) A review of snow manipulation experiments in Arctic and alpine tundra ecosystems. Polar Res 29:95–109

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wipf S, Rixen C, Mulder CPH (2006) Advanced snowmelt causes shift towards positive neighbour interactions in a subArctic tundra community. Glob Change Biol 12:1496–1506

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Xu L, Myneni RB, Chapin FS III et al (2013) Temperature and vegetation seasonality diminishment over northern lands. Nat Clim Chang 3:581–586

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a Grant from the Northern Scientific Training Program (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) and an NSERC Northern Research Internship to Marine Cusa. We thank LeeAnn Fishback, Carley Basler, and the Churchill Northern Studies Centre for crucial logistical and financial support. We also thank four anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback. Special thanks to Everest T and Caroline Tucker for thoughtful comments on the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Geoffrey Legault.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Legault, G., Cusa, M. Temperature and delayed snowmelt jointly affect the vegetative and reproductive phenologies of four sub-Arctic plants. Polar Biol 38, 1701–1711 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-015-1736-6

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-015-1736-6

Keywords

Navigation