Climatic and biotic extreme events moderate long-term responses of above- and belowground sub-Arctic heathland communities to climate change

S.F. Bokhorst, G.K. Phoenix, M.P. Berg, T.V. Callaghan, C. Kirby-Lambert, J.W. Bjerke

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


Climate change impacts are not uniform across the Arctic region because interacting factors causes large variations in local ecosystem change. Extreme climatic events and population cycles of herbivores occur simultaneously against a background of gradual climate warming trends and can redirect ecosystem change along routes that are difficult to predict. Here, we present the results from sub-Arctic heath vegetation and its belowground micro-arthropod community in response to the two main drivers of vegetation damage in this region: extreme winter warming events and subsequent outbreaks of the defoliating autumnal moth caterpillar (Epirrita autumnata). Evergreen dwarf shrub biomass decreased (30%) following extreme winter warming events and again by moth caterpillar grazing. Deciduous shrubs that were previously exposed to an extreme winter warming event were not affected by the moth caterpillar grazing, while those that were not exposed to warming events (control plots) showed reduced (23%) biomass from grazing. Cryptogam cover increased irrespective of grazing or winter warming events. Micro-arthropods declined (46%) following winter warming but did not respond to changes in plant community. Extreme winter warming and caterpillar grazing suppressed the CO
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4063-4075
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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