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Changes in high arctic tundra plant reproduction in response to long-term experimental warming

Authors

  • REBECCA A. KLADY,

    1. Department of Geography, The University of British Columbia, 1984 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z2
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    • 1Present address: Department of Forest Resources Management, Faculty of Forestry, The University of British Columbia, Forest Sciences Centre, #2045-2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z2.

  • GREGORY H. R. HENRY,

    1. Department of Geography, The University of British Columbia, 1984 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z2
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  • VALERIE LEMAY

    1. Department of Forest Resources Management, Faculty of Forestry, The University of British Columbia, Forest Sciences Centre, #2045-2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z2
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Rebecca A. Klady, tel. +1-604-822-2985, fax +604-822-6150, e-mail: rklady@gmail.com

Abstract

We provide new information on changes in tundra plant sexual reproduction in response to long-term (12 years) experimental warming in the High Arctic. Open-top chambers (OTCs) were used to increase growing season temperatures by 1–2 °C across a range of vascular plant communities. The warming enhanced reproductive effort and success in most species; shrubs and graminoids appeared to be more responsive than forbs. We found that the measured effects of warming on sexual reproduction were more consistently positive and to a greater degree in polar oasis compared with polar semidesert vascular plant communities. Our findings support predictions that long-term warming in the High Arctic will likely enhance sexual reproduction in tundra plants, which could lead to an increase in plant cover. Greater abundance of vegetation has implications for primary consumers – via increased forage availability, and the global carbon budget – as a function of changes in permafrost and vegetation acting as a carbon sink. Enhanced sexual reproduction in Arctic vascular plants may lead to increased genetic variability of offspring, and consequently improved chances of survival in a changing environment. Our findings also indicate that with future warming, polar oases may play an important role as a seed source to the surrounding polar desert landscape.

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