Influence of herbivory and abiotic factors on the distribution of tall forbs along a productivity gradient: a transplantation experiment


  • Johan Olofsson

J. Olofsson, Dept of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå Univ., SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden (


In arctic-alpine areas tall herb vegetation is restricted to sites with high productivity. At higher elevation, low prostate forbs and narrow-leaved graminoids dominate the vegetation in sites with a protecting snow cover during winter. In this study, I test whether herbivory or abiotic factors prevent tall forbs from growing at higher altitudes. Vegetation blocks from a tall herb meadow were transplanted to herbivore exclosures and open plots in a low-productive snowbed and a productive tall herb meadow. The tall forbs performed equally well in the exclosures on the low-productive snowbed as in the tall herb meadow, but decreased in the open plots on the low-productive snowbed. Thus, even if abiotic factors are ultimately causing many of the vegetation patterns observed in arctic-alpine plant communities, herbivory appears to be the main proximate factor responsible for the decreasing abundance of tall forbs along gradients of decreasing productivity in arctic-alpine areas.