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Biotic validation of small open-top chambers in a tundra ecosystem


Robert (Bob) Hollister, fax + 1/517/432-2150, e-mail


Small open-top chambers (OTC) are used widely in ecosystem warming experiments. The efficacy of the open-top chamber as an analogue of climatic warming is examined. Twenty-four small OTCs were used to passively warm canopy temperatures in wet meadow tundra at Barrow, Alaska, during two consecutive summers with contrasting surface air-temperatures. Fortuitously, the seasonal average temperature regime within chambers in the colder year (1995) was similar to the controls of the warmer year (1996); this allowed a comparison of natural vs. chamber warming. All measured plant responses behaved similarly to both year and treatment 68% of the time. A comparison of the populations of the warmer summer's control with the cooler summer's OTC found no statistical difference in 80% of the response variables measured. A meta-analysis also found no significant difference between the responses of the two populations. These results give empirical biotic validation for the use of the OTC as an analogue of regional climate warming.