Plant functional trait change across a warming tundra biome



Bjorkman AD, Myers-Smith IH, Elmendorf SC, Normand S, Rüger N, Beck PSA, Blach-Overgaard A, Blok D, Cornelissen JC, Forbes BC, Georges D, Goetz SJ, Guay KC, Henry GHR & Wookey P (2018) Plant functional trait change across a warming tundra biome. Nature, 562, pp. 57-62.

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.

Additional co-authors: 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, Johan Olofsson, Vladimir G Onipchenko, Sabine B Rumpf, Philipp Semenchuk, Rohan Shetti, Laura Siegwart Collier, Lorna E Street, Katharine N Suding, Ken D Tape, Andrew Trant, Urs A Treier, Jean-Pierre Tremblay, Maxime Tremblay, Susanna Venn, Stef Weijers, Tara Zamin, Noémie Boulanger-Lapointe, William A Gould, David S Hik, Annika Hofgaard, Ingibjörg S Jónsdóttir, Janet Jorgenson, Julia Klein, Borgthor Magnusson, Craig Tweedie, Michael Bahn, Benjamin Blonder, Peter M van Bodegom, Benjamin Bond-Lamberty, Giandiego Campetella, Bruno E L Cerabolini, F Stuart Chapin III, William K Cornwell, Joseph Craine, Matteo Dainese, Franciska T de Vries, Sandra Díaz, Brian J Enquist, Walton Green, Ruben Milla, Ülo Niinemets, Yusuke Onoda, Jenny C Ordoñez, Wim A Ozinga, Josep Penuelas, Hendrik Poorter, Peter Poschlod, Peter B Reich, Brody Sandel, Brandon Schamp, Serge Sheremetev & Evan Weiher

Nature: Volume 562

Publication date26/09/2018
Publication date online26/09/2018
Date accepted by journal08/08/2018

People (1)


Professor Philip Wookey
Professor Philip Wookey

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences