Shoot physiological activity in arctic vascular plants may be controlled by low soil temperatures. While leaves may be exposed to moderate temperatures during the growing season, root temperatures often remain near freezing. In this study, two tundra sedges, Eriophorum vaginatum and Carex bigellowii, were subjected to reduced soil temperatures, and photosynthetic parameters (light saturated photosynthesis Amax, variable to maximal fluorescence and Fv/Fm stomatal conductance) and abscisic acid concentrations were determined. Stomatal conductance and Amax for both E. vaginatum and C. bigellowii strongly decreased with declining soil temperatures. Decreasing soil temperature, however, impacted Fv/Fm to a much lesser degree. Root and leaf ABA concentrations increased with decreasing root temperature. These observations support the contention that soil temperature is a significant photosynthetic driving factor in arctic sedges exposed to variable root and shoot temperatures. Because these two species comprise approximately 30% of the vascular ground cover of wet tussock tundra, the soil temperature responses of these sedges potentially scale up to significant effects on ecosystem carbon exchange.