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AMBIO

, Volume 41, Supplement 3, pp 246–255 | Cite as

Ecosystem Response to Climatic Change: The Importance of the Cold Season

  • Stef Bokhorst
  • Jarle W. Bjerke
  • Hans Tømmervik
  • Catherine Preece
  • Gareth K. Phoenix
Article

Abstract

Winter climate and snow cover are the important drivers of plant community development in polar regions. However, the impacts of changing winter climate and associated changes in snow regime have received much less attention than changes during summer. Here, we synthesize the results from studies on the impacts of extreme winter weather events on polar heathland and lichen communities. Dwarf shrubs, mosses and soil arthropods were negatively impacted by extreme warming events while lichens showed variable responses to changes in extreme winter weather events. Snow mould formation underneath the snow may contribute to spatial heterogeneity in plant growth, arthropod communities and carbon cycling. Winter snow cover and depth will drive the reported impacts of winter climate change and add to spatial patterns in vegetation heterogeneity. The challenges ahead lie in obtaining better predictions on the snow patterns across the landscape and how these will be altered due to winter climate change.

Keywords

Autumn Empetrum nigrum Icing Snow Snow mould Winter 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Terry V. Callaghan for all the excellent ideas and suggestions during the fieldwork and discussions at Abisko that shaped the work presented here, and his support for the project while director of ANS. This research was supported by a Leverhulme Trust (UK) grant to GKP and TVC, by a grant from the Research Council of Norway awarded to JWB (Contract Nos. 171542/V10 and 216434/E10), by ATANS grants (EU Transnational Access Programme) to JWB, GKP and SB and by the Netherlands Polar Programme (NPP-NWO 851.20.016). This article was improved by the constructive comments of two anonymous reviewers.

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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stef Bokhorst
    • 1
  • Jarle W. Bjerke
    • 2
  • Hans Tømmervik
    • 2
  • Catherine Preece
    • 3
  • Gareth K. Phoenix
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Forest Ecology and ManagementSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden
  2. 2.Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), FRAM—High North Research Centre on Climate and the EnvironmentTromsöNorway
  3. 3.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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