Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 416310
Title Shrub expansion in tundra ecosystems: dynamics, impacts and research priorities
Author(s) Myers-Smith, I.H.; Forbes, B.C.; Wilmking, M.; Hallinger, M.; Lantz, T.; Blok, D.; Sass, U.G.W.
Source Environmental Research Letters 6 (2011)4. - ISSN 1748-9326 - 15 p.
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/6/4/045509
Department(s) Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology
Forest Ecology and Forest Management
PE&RC
WIMEK
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2011
Keyword(s) plant community responses - retrogressive thaw slumps - birch betula-glandulosa - recent climate-change - arctic tundra - cassiope-tetragona - alpine vegetation - dwarf shrub - experimental manipulation - environmental-change
Abstract Part of Focus on Dynamics of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Vegetation Recent research using repeat photography, long-term ecological monitoring and dendrochronology has documented shrub expansion in arctic, high-latitude and alpine tundra ecosystems. Here, we (1) synthesize these findings, (2) present a conceptual framework that identifies mechanisms and constraints on shrub increase, (3) explore causes, feedbacks and implications of the increased shrub cover in tundra ecosystems, and (4) address potential lines of investigation for future research. Satellite observations from around the circumpolar Arctic, showing increased productivity, measured as changes in 'greenness', have coincided with a general rise in high-latitude air temperatures and have been partly attributed to increases in shrub cover. Studies indicate that warming temperatures, changes in snow cover, altered disturbance regimes as a result of permafrost thaw, tundra fires, and anthropogenic activities or changes in herbivory intensity are all contributing to observed changes in shrub abundance. A large-scale increase in shrub cover will change the structure of tundra ecosystems and alter energy fluxes, regional climate, soil–atmosphere exchange of water, carbon and nutrients, and ecological interactions between species. In order to project future rates of shrub expansion and understand the feedbacks to ecosystem and climate processes, future research should investigate the species or trait-specific responses of shrubs to climate change including: (1) the temperature sensitivity of shrub growth, (2) factors controlling the recruitment of new individuals, and (3) the relative influence of the positive and negative feedbacks involved in shrub expansion.
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