Effects of roads on plant communities are not well known in cold-climate mountain ecosystems, where road building and development are expected to increase in future decades. Knowledge of the sensitivity of mountain plant communities to disturbance by roads is however important for future conservation purposes. We investigate the effects of roads on species richness and composition, including the plant strategies that are most affected, along three elevational gradients in a subarctic mountain ecosystem. We also examine whether mountain roads promote the introduction and invasion of alien plant species from the lowlands to the alpine zone. Observations of plant community composition were made together with abiotic, biotic and anthropogenic factors in 60 T-shaped transects. Alpine plant communities reacted differently to road disturbances than their lowland counterparts. On high elevations, the roadside species composition was more similar to that of the local natural communities. Less competitive and ruderal species were present at high compared with lower elevation roadsides. While the effects of roads thus seem to be mitigated in the alpine environment for plant species in general, mountain plant communities are more invasible than lowland communities. More precisely, relatively more alien species present in the roadside were found to invade into the surrounding natural community at high compared to low elevations. We conclude that effects of roads and introduction of alien species in lowlands cannot simply be extrapolated to the alpine and subarctic environment.
Cites: Nature. 2002 Jun 20;417(6891):844-812075350
Climate change is expected to force many species in arctic regions to migrate and track their climatic niche. This requires recruitment from seed, which currently shows very low rates in arctic regions, where long-lived and vegetatively reproducing plants dominate. Therefore, we pose the question whether recruitment (germination and seedling establishment) in arctic regions will significantly improve in a warmer world, and thus allow species to follow their climatic niche. We used a full factorial experiment to examine if realistic warmer temperatures (+3 ?C; infrared radiation) and increased nitrogen availability (+1.4 g N m(-2) year(-1)) affected germination, seedling survival and above- and below-ground seedling biomass in five species common in subarctic regions (Anthoxanthum odoratum, Betula nana, Pinus sylvestris, Solidago virgaurea, Vaccinium myrtillus). We found that warming increased seedling emergence in all species, but that subsequent mortality also increased, resulting in no net warming effect on seedling establishment. Warming slightly increased above-ground seedling biomass. Fertilization, on the other hand, did not influence seedling biomass, but it increased seedling establishment in B. nana while it reduced establishment in V. myrtillus. This may help B. nana dominate over V. myrtillus in warmer tundra. Surprisingly, no interactive effects between warming and fertilization were found. The lack of a general positive response of seedling establishment to warmer and more nutrient-rich conditions suggests that (sub)arctic species may experience difficulties in tracking their climatic niche. Predictions of future species distributions in arctic regions solely based on abiotic factors may therefore overestimate species' ranges due to their poor establishment. Also, the opposite response to fertilization of two key (sub)arctic dwarf shrubs, i.e. B. nana and V. myrtillus, could have important implications for the future development of arctic plant communities and argues for more research into the role of fertilization for plant establishment.
Cites: PLoS One. 2014 Feb 26;9(2):e8966424586947
Cites: Ann Bot. 2009 Aug;104(2):287-9619443459
Cites: Oecologia. 2001 Feb;126(4):543-56228547240
Cites: Ambio. 2011 Sep;40(6):683-9221954730
Cites: Am J Bot. 2005 Mar;92(3):422-3121652418
Cites: Oecologia. 1995 Jun;102(4):478-48928306891
Cites: Oecologia. 1996 Jan;105(1):1-1228307116
Cites: Oecologia. 1996 Nov;108(3):389-41128307854
Cites: New Phytol. 2013 Feb;197(3):1002-1123206238
Cites: Oecologia. 2009 Apr;159(4):705-1519137328
Cites: New Phytol. 2008 Jul;179(2):428-3919086179
Cites: New Phytol. 2011 Jun;190(4):1019-3121342202
Climate-warming induced permafrost thaw exposes large amounts of carbon and nitrogen in soil at greater depths below the seasonally-thawing active layer. The extent to which plant roots can reach and interact with these hitherto detached, deep carbon and nitrogen stores remains unknown. We aimed to quantify how permafrost thaw affects root dynamics across soil depths and plant functional types compared with aboveground abundance, and potential consequences for plant-soil interactions. A decade of experimental permafrost thaw strongly increased total root length and growth in the active layer, and deep roots invaded the newly thawed permafrost underneath. Root litter input to soil across all depths was 10 times greater with permafrost thaw. Root growth timing was unaffected by experimental permafrost thaw but peaked later in deeper soil, reflecting the seasonally receding thaw front. Deep-rooting species could sequester 15 N added at the base of the ambient active layer in October, which was after root growth had ceased. Deep soil organic matter that has long been locked-up in permafrost is thus no longer detached from plant processes upon thaw. Whether via nutrient uptake, carbon storage, or rhizosphere priming, plant root interactions with thawing permafrost soils may feedback both positively and negatively onto our climate. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
There is compelling evidence from experiments and observations that climate warming prolongs the growing season in arctic regions. Until now, the start, peak, and end of the growing season, which are used to model influences of vegetation on biogeochemical cycles, were commonly quantified using above-ground phenological data. Yet, over 80% of the plant biomass in arctic regions can be below ground, and the timing of root growth affects biogeochemical processes by influencing plant water and nutrient uptake, soil carbon input and microbial activity. We measured timing of above- and below-ground production in three plant communities along an arctic elevation gradient over two growing seasons. Below-ground production peaked later in the season and was more temporally uniform than above-ground production. Most importantly, the growing season continued c. 50% longer below than above ground. Our results strongly suggest that traditional above-ground estimates of phenology in arctic regions, including remotely sensed information, are not as complete a representation of whole-plant production intensity or duration, as studies that include root phenology. We therefore argue for explicit consideration of root phenology in studies of carbon and nutrient cycling, in terrestrial biosphere models, and scenarios of how arctic ecosystems will respond to climate warming.
Plant contributions to the nitrogen (N) cycle from decomposition are likely to be altered by vegetation shifts associated with climate change. Roots account for the majority of soil organic matter input from vegetation, but little is known about differences between vegetation types in their root contributions to nutrient cycling. Here, we examine the potential contribution of fine roots to the N cycle in forest and tundra to gain insight into belowground consequences of the widely observed increase in woody vegetation that accompanies climate change in the Arctic. We combined measurements of root production from minirhizotron images with tissue analysis of roots from differing root diameter and color classes to obtain potential N input following decomposition. In addition, we tested for changes in N concentration of roots during early stages of decomposition, and investigated whether vegetation type (forest or tundra) affected changes in tissue N concentration during decomposition. For completeness, we also present respective measurements of leaves. The potential N input from roots was twofold greater in forest than in tundra, mainly due to greater root production in forest. Potential N input varied with root diameter and color, but this variation tended to be similar in forest and tundra. As for roots, the potential N input from leaves was significantly greater in forest than in tundra. Vegetation type had no effect on changes in root or leaf N concentration after 1 year of decomposition. Our results suggest that shifts in vegetation that accompany climate change in the Arctic will likely increase plant-associated potential N input both belowground and aboveground. In contrast, shifts in vegetation might not alter changes in tissue N concentration during early stages of decomposition. Overall, differences between forest and tundra in potential contribution of decomposing roots to the N cycle reinforce differences between habitats that occur for leaves.
Cites: Nature. 2002 Aug 8;418(6898):623-612167857
Cites: Oecologia. 1990 Oct;84(3):391-39728313031
Cites: Oecologia. 1997 Jul;111(3):302-30828308123
Cites: Ecol Lett. 2007 Jul;10(7):619-2717542940
Cites: New Phytol. 2016 Jan;209(1):115-2226333347
Cites: Oecologia. 2006 Nov;150(1):97-10716917779
Cites: Science. 2004 Jun 11;304(5677):1629-3315192218
Institute of Landscape Ecology and Resource Management, Research Centre for BioSystems, Land Use and Nutrition (IFZ), Justus-Liebig-University Gießen, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26-32, DE-35392 Gießen, Germany.
Background and Aims A meta-analysis of global change experiments in arctic tundra sites suggests that plant productivity and the cover of shrubs, grasses and dead plant material (i.e. litter) will increase and the cover of bryophytes will decrease in response to higher air temperatures. However, little is known about which effects these changes in vegetation structure will have on seedling recruitment of species and invasibility of arctic ecosystems. Methods A field experiment was done in a bryophyte-dominated, species-rich subarctic heath by manipulating the cover of bryophytes and litter in a factorial design. Three phases of seedling recruitment (seedling emergence, summer seedling survival, first-year recruitment) of the grass Anthoxanthum alpinum and the shrub Betula nana were analysed after they were sown into the experimental plots. Key Results Bryophyte and litter removal significantly increased seedling emergence of both species but the effects of manipulations of vegetation structure varied strongly for the later phases of recruitment. Summer survival and first-year recruitment were significantly higher in Anthoxanthum. Although bryophyte removal generally increased summer survival and recruitment, seedlings of Betula showed high mortality in early August on plots where bryophytes had been removed. Conclusions Large species-specific variation and significant effects of experimental manipulations on seedling recruitment suggest that changes in vegetation structure as a consequence of global warming will affect the abundance of grasses and shrubs, the species composition and the susceptibility to invasion of subarctic heath vegetation.
Plant associated mutualists can mediate invasion success by affecting the ecological niche of nonnative plant species. Anthropogenic disturbance is also key in facilitating invasion success through changes in biotic and abiotic conditions, but the combined effect of these two factors in natural environments is understudied. To better understand this interaction, we investigated how disturbance and its interaction with mycorrhizas could impact range dynamics of nonnative plant species in the mountains of Norway. Therefore, we studied the root colonisation and community composition of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in disturbed vs undisturbed plots along mountain roads. We found that roadside disturbance strongly increases fungal diversity and richness while also promoting AM fungal root colonisation in an otherwise ecto-mycorrhiza and ericoid-mycorrhiza dominated environment. Surprisingly, AM fungi associating with nonnative plant species were present across the whole elevation gradient, even above the highest elevational limit of nonnative plants, indicating that mycorrhizal fungi are not currently limiting the upward movement of nonnative plants. We conclude that roadside disturbance has a positive effect on AM fungal colonisation and richness, possibly supporting the spread of nonnative plants, but that there is no absolute limitation of belowground mutualists, even at high elevation.