Warming increases plant biomass and reduces diversity across continents, latitudes, and species migration scenarios in experimental wetland communities

Authors

  • Andrew H. Baldwin,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Environmental Science & Technology, University of Maryland at College Park, College Park, MD, USA
    • Correspondence: Andrew H. Baldwin, tel. +301-405-7855, fax: 301-314-9023, e-mail: baldwin@umd.edu

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    • The first two authors contributed in equal shares to this article.
  • Kai Jensen,

    1. Applied Plant Ecology, Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany
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    • The first two authors contributed in equal shares to this article.
  • Marisa Schönfeldt

    1. Applied Plant Ecology, Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany
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Abstract

Atmospheric warming may influence plant productivity and diversity and induce poleward migration of species, altering communities across latitudes. Complicating the picture is that communities from different continents deviate in evolutionary histories, which may modify responses to warming and migration. We used experimental wetland plant communities grown from seed banks as model systems to determine whether effects of warming on biomass production and species richness are consistent across continents, latitudes, and migration scenarios. We collected soil samples from each of three tidal freshwater marshes in estuaries at three latitudes (north, middle, south) on the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America. In one experiment, we exposed soil seed bank communities from each latitude and continent to ambient and elevated (+2.8 °C) temperatures in the greenhouse. In a second experiment, soil samples were mixed either within each estuary (limited migration) or among estuaries from different latitudes in each continent (complete migration). Seed bank communities of these migration scenarios were also exposed to ambient and elevated temperatures and contrasted with a no-migration treatment. In the first experiment, warming overall increased biomass (+16%) and decreased species richness (−14%) across latitudes in Europe and North America. Species richness and evenness of south-latitude communities were less affected by warming than those of middle and north latitudes. In the second experiment, warming also stimulated biomass and lowered species richness. In addition, complete migration led to increased species richness (+60% in North America, + 100% in Europe), but this higher diversity did not translate into increased biomass. Species responded idiosyncratically to warming, but Lythrum salicaria and Bidens sp. increased significantly in response to warming in both continents. These results reveal for the first time consistent impacts of warming on biomass and species richness for temperate wetland plant communities across continents, latitudes, and migration scenarios.

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