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Advanced snowmelt causes shift towards positive neighbour interactions in a subarctic tundra community


Wipf, S; Rixen, C; Mulder, C P H (2006). Advanced snowmelt causes shift towards positive neighbour interactions in a subarctic tundra community. Global Change Biology, 12(8):1496-1506.

Abstract

Positive and negative species interactions are important factors in structuring vegetation communities. Studies in many ecosystems have focussed on competition; however,
facilitation has often been found to outweigh competition under harsh environmental conditions. The balance between positive and negative species interactions is known to
shift along spatial, temporal and environmental gradients and thus is likely to be affected by climate change. Winter temperature and precipitation patterns in Interior Alaska are rapidly changing and could lead to warmer winters with a shallow, early melting snow cover in the near future. We conducted snow manipulation and neighbour removal experiments to test whether the relative importance of positive and negative species interactions differs between three winter climate scenarios in a subarctic tundra community. In plots with ambient, manually advanced or delayed snowmelt, we assessed the relative importance of neighbours for survival, phenology, growth and reproduction of two dwarf shrub species. Under ambient conditions and after delayed snowmelt, positive and negative neighbour effects were generally balanced, but when snowmelt was advanced we found overall facilitative neighbour effects on survival, phenology, growth and reproduction of Empetrum nigrum, the earlier developing of the two target species. As earlier snowmelt was correlated with colder spring temperatures and a higher number of frosts, we conclude that plants experienced harsher environmental conditions after early snowmelt and that neighbours could have played an important role in ameliorating the physical environment at the beginning of the growing season.

Positive and negative species interactions are important factors in structuring vegetation communities. Studies in many ecosystems have focussed on competition; however,
facilitation has often been found to outweigh competition under harsh environmental conditions. The balance between positive and negative species interactions is known to
shift along spatial, temporal and environmental gradients and thus is likely to be affected by climate change. Winter temperature and precipitation patterns in Interior Alaska are rapidly changing and could lead to warmer winters with a shallow, early melting snow cover in the near future. We conducted snow manipulation and neighbour removal experiments to test whether the relative importance of positive and negative species interactions differs between three winter climate scenarios in a subarctic tundra community. In plots with ambient, manually advanced or delayed snowmelt, we assessed the relative importance of neighbours for survival, phenology, growth and reproduction of two dwarf shrub species. Under ambient conditions and after delayed snowmelt, positive and negative neighbour effects were generally balanced, but when snowmelt was advanced we found overall facilitative neighbour effects on survival, phenology, growth and reproduction of Empetrum nigrum, the earlier developing of the two target species. As earlier snowmelt was correlated with colder spring temperatures and a higher number of frosts, we conclude that plants experienced harsher environmental conditions after early snowmelt and that neighbours could have played an important role in ameliorating the physical environment at the beginning of the growing season.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:dwarf shrub heath, Empetrum nigrum, facilitation, growth, neighbour removal experiment, phenology, reproduction, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, winter climate change
Language:English
Date:August 2006
Deposited On:26 Feb 2008 15:44
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:22
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:1354-1013
Publisher DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01185.x

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