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Keywords:

  • Climatic gradient;
  • NMDS ordination;
  • Salix;
  • Tundra;
  • TWINSPAN;
  • vegetation pattern

Abstract

Question: How does willow-characterised tundra vegetation of western Eurasia vary, and what are the main vegetation types? What are the ecological gradients and climatic regimes underlying vegetation differentiation?

Location: The dataset was collected across a wide spectrum of tundra habitats at 12 sites in subarctic and arctic areas spanning from NW Fennoscandia to West Siberia.

Methods: The dataset, including 758 vegetation sample plots (relevés), was analysed using a TWINSPAN classification and NMDS ordination that also included analyses of vegetation-environment correlations.

Results: Based on the TWINSPAN classification, eight vegetation types characterised by willow (cover of upright willows >10%) were discerned: (1) Salix glauca-Carex aquatilis type, (2) Aulacomnium-Tomentypnum type, (3) Salix-Betula-Hylocomium type, (4) Salix lanata-Brachythecium mildeanum type, (5) Salix-Pachypleurum type, (6) S. lanata-Myosotis nemorosa type, (7) Salix-Trollius-Geranium type and (8) Salix-Comarum palustre-Filipendula ulmaria type. Willow-characterised vegetation types were compositionally differentiated from other tundra vegetation and were confined to relatively moist valley and sloping tundra sites, from mire to mineral soils. These vegetation types were encountered across a broad latitudinal zone in which July mean temperature ranged from 6 to 10°C.

Conclusions: Willow-characterised tundra vegetation forms a broad category of ecologically and geographically differentiated vegetation types that are linked to dwarf shrub tundra, shrub tundra or mire. Because of complex ecological gradients underlying compositional differentiation, predicting the responses of willow-characterised tundra vegetation to a warming climate may be complicated.