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Oecologia. 2009 Sep;161(3):601-10. doi: 10.1007/s00442-009-1392-z. Epub 2009 Jun 25.

Plant community responses to 5 years of simulated climate change in meadow and heath ecosystems at a subarctic-alpine site.

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Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Göteborg University, P.O. Box 461, 40530 Göteborg, Sweden.


Climate change was simulated by increasing temperature and nutrient availability in an alpine landscape. We conducted a field experiment of BACI-design (before/after control/impact) running for five seasons in two alpine communities (heath and meadow) with the factors temperature (increase of ca. 1.5-3.0 degrees C) and nutrients (5 g N, 5 g P per m(2)) in a fully factorial design in northern Swedish Lapland. The response variables were abundances of plant species and functional types. Plant community responses to the experimental perturbations were investigated, and the responses of plant functional types were examined in comparison to responses at the species level. Nutrient addition, exclusively and in combination with enhanced temperature increase, exerted the most pronounced responses at the species-specific and community levels. The main responses to nutrient addition were increases in graminoids and forbs, whereas deciduous shrubs, evergreen shrubs, bryophytes, and lichens decreased. The two plant communities of heath or meadow showed different vegetation responses to the environmental treatments despite the fact that both communities were located on the same subarctic-alpine site. Furthermore, we showed that the abundance of forbs increased in response to the combined treatment of temperature and nutrient addition in the meadow plant community. Within a single-plant functional type, most species responded similarly to the enhanced treatments although there were exceptions, particularly in the moss and lichen functional types. Plant community structure showed BACI responses in that vegetation dominance relationships in the existing plant functional types changed to varying degrees in all plots, including control plots. Betula nana and lichens increased in the temperature-increased enhancements and in control plots in the heath plant community during the treatment period. The increases in control plots were probably a response to the observed warming during the treatment period in the region.

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