Climate scenarios for high-latitude areas predict not only increased summer temperatures, but also larger variation in snowfall and winter temperatures. By using open-top chambers, we experimentally manipulated both summer temperatures and winter and spring snow accumulations and temperatures independently in a blanket bog in subarctic Sweden, yielding six climate scenarios. We studied the effects of these scenarios on flowering phenology and flower production of Andromeda polifolia (woody evergreen) and Rubus chamaemorus (perennial herb) during 2 years. The second year of our study (2002) was characterized by unusually high spring and early summer temperatures.
Our winter manipulations led to consistent increases in winter snow cover. As a result, average and minimum air and soil temperatures in the high snow cover treatments were higher than in the winter ambient treatments, whereas temperature fluctuations were smaller. Spring warming resulted in higher average, minimum, and maximum soil temperatures. Summer warming led to higher air and soil temperatures in mid-summer (June–July), but not in late summer (August–September).
The unusually high temperatures in 2002 advanced the median flowering date by 2 weeks for both species in all treatments. Superimposed on this effect, we found that for both Andromeda and Rubus, all our climate treatments (except summer warming for Rubus) advanced flowering by 1–4 days. The total flower production of both species showed a more or less similar response: flower production in the warm year 2002 exceeded that in 2001 by far. However, in both species flower production was only stimulated by the spring-warming treatments.
Our results show that the reproductive ecology of both species is very responsive to climate change but this response is very dependent on specific climate events, especially those that occur in winter and spring. This suggests that high-latitude climate change experiments should focus more on winter and spring events than has been the case so far.