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Ecology. 2007 Feb;88(2):454-64.

Global change shifts vegetation and plant-parasite interactions in a boreal mire.

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Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden.

Erratum in

  • Ecology. 2007 Jul;88(7):1876.


The aim of this study was to detect vegetation change and to examine trophic interactions in a Sphagnum-dominated mire in response to raised temperature and nitrogen (N) addition. A long-term global-change experiment was established in 1995, with monthly additions of N (30 kg x ha(-1) x yr(-1)) and sulfur (20 kg x ha(-1) x yr(-1)) during the vegetation period. Mean air temperature was raised by 3.6 degrees C with warming chambers. Vegetation responses were negligible for all treatments for the first four years, and no sulfur effect was seen during the course of the experiment. However, after eight years of continuous treatments, the closed Sphagnum carpet was drastically reduced from 100% in 1995 down to 41%, averaged over all N-treated plots. Over the same period, total vascular plant cover (of the graminoid Eriophorum vaginatum and the two dwarf-shrubs Andromeda polifolia and Vaccinium oxycoccos) increased from 24% to an average of 70% in the N plots. Nitrogen addition caused leaf N concentrations to rise in the two dwarf-shrubs, while for E. vaginatum, leaf N remained unchanged, indicating that the graminoid to a larger extent than the dwarf-shrubs allocated supplemented N to growth. Concurrent with foliar N accumulation of the two dwarf-shrubs, we observed increased disease incidences caused by parasitic fungi, with three species out of 16 showing a significant increase. Warming caused a significant decrease in occurrence of three parasitic fungal species. In general, decreased disease incidences were found in temperature treatments for A. polifolia and in plots without N addition for V. oxycoccos. The study demonstrates that both bryophytes and vascular plants at boreal mires, only receiving background levels of nitrogen of about 2 kg x ha(-1) x yr(-1), exhibit a time lag of more than five years in response to nitrogen and temperature rise, emphasizing the need for long-term experiments. Moreover, it shows that trophic interactions are likely to differ markedly in response to climate change and increased N deposition, and that these interactions might play an important role in controlling the change in mire vegetation composition, with implications for both carbon sequestration and methane emission.

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