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Energy and water additions give rise to simple responses in plant canopy and soil microclimates of a high arctic ecosystem

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Abstract

[1] Energy and water inputs were increased during the snow-free season to test the sensitivity of a cold, dry ecosystem to climate change. Infrared radiators were used to provide two levels of supplemental radiation (T1 and T2) to prostrate dwarf-shrub, herb tundra in northwest Greenland. The higher radiation addition was combined with supplemental water in a factorial design. Radiation additions increased midday canopy temperatures by up to 4.0°C and 6.0°C and growing season mean shallow soil temperatures by 1.3°C and 2.4°C in T1 and T2 plots, respectively. Soil warming was measured at and probably exceeded 10 cm in depth. There was no evidence of soil drying in plots that received additional radiation, in contrast with other studies, nor was there evidence that supplemental water interacted with radiation additions to affect soil temperatures. Water additions were generally undetectable against a background of large seasonal changes in soil water content. We suggest that well-drained soils and strong seasonal controls on soil water contents (e.g., soil thaw and evapotranspiration) limit the system's sensitivity to changes in precipitation during the brief growing season. In general, multifactor changes in climate gave rise to simple changes in the vegetation microclimate of this cold, dry ecosystem.

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