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Plant functional trait change across a warming tundra biome

Journal article
Authors Anne Bjorkman
Isla H. Myers-Smith
Sarah C. Elmendorf
Signe Normand
Nadja Rüger
Pieter S.A. Beck
Anne Blach-Overgaard
Daan Blok
J. Hans C. Cornelissen
Bruce C. Forbes
Damien Georges
Scott J. Goetz
Kevin C. Guay
Gregory H.R. Henry
Janneke HilleRisLambers
Robert D. Hollister
Dirk N. Karger
Jens Kattge
Peter Manning
Janet S. Prevéy
Christian Rixen
Gabriela Schaepman-Strub
Haydn J.D. Thomas
Mark Vellend
Martin Wilmking
Sonja Wipf
Michele Carbognani
Luise Hermanutz
Esther Lévesque
Ulf Molau
Alessandro Petraglia
Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia
Marko J. Spasojevic
Marcello Tomaselli
Tage Vowles
Juha M. Alatalo
Heather D. Alexander
Alba Anadon-Rosell
Sandra Angers-Blondin
Mariska te Beest
Logan Berner
Robert G. Björk
Agata Buchwal
Allan Buras
Katherine Christie
Elisabeth J. Cooper
Stefan Dullinger
Bo Elberling
Anu Eskelinen
Esther R. Frei
Oriol Grau
Paul Grogan
Martin Hallinger
Karen A. Harper
Monique M.P.D. Heijmans
James Hudson
Karl Hülber
Maitane Iturrate-Garcia
Colleen M. Iversen
Francesca Jaroszynska
Jill F. Johnstone
Rasmus Halfdan Jørgensen
Elina Kaarlejärvi
Rebecca Klady
Sara Kuleza
Aino Kulonen
Laurent J. Lamarque
Trevor Lantz
Chelsea J. Little
James D.M. Speed
Anders Michelsen
Ann Milbau
Jacob Nabe-Nielsen
Sigrid Schøler Nielsen
Josep M. Ninot
Steven F. Oberbauer
Published in Nature
Volume 562
Issue 7725
Pages 57-62
ISSN 00280836
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 57-62
Language en
Subject categories Terrestrial ecology


The tundra is warming more rapidly than any other biome on Earth, and the potential ramifications are far-reaching because of global feedback effects between vegetation and climate. A better understanding of how environmental factors shape plant structure and function is crucial for predicting the consequences of environmental change for ecosystem functioning. Here we explore the biome-wide relationships between temperature, moisture and seven key plant functional traits both across space and over three decades of warming at 117 tundra locations. Spatial temperature–trait relationships were generally strong but soil moisture had a marked influence on the strength and direction of these relationships, highlighting the potentially important influence of changes in water availability on future trait shifts in tundra plant communities. Community height increased with warming across all sites over the past three decades, but other traits lagged far behind predicted rates of change. Our findings highlight the challenge of using space-for-time substitution to predict the functional consequences of future warming and suggest that functions that are tied closely to plant height will experience the most rapid change. They also reveal the strength with which environmental factors shape biotic communities at the coldest extremes of the planet and will help to improve projections of functional changes in tundra ecosystems with climate warming.

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