Ecotypic differences in the phenology of the tundra species Eriophorum vaginatum reflect sites of origin



Parker T, Tang J, Clark MB, Moody MM & Fetcher N (2017) Ecotypic differences in the phenology of the tundra species Eriophorum vaginatum reflect sites of origin. Ecology and Evolution, 7 (22), pp. 9775-9786.

Eriophorum vaginatum is a tussock-forming sedge that contributes significantly to the structure and primary productivity of moist acidic tussock tundra. Locally adapted populations (ecotypes) have been identified across the geographical distribution of E. vaginatum; however, little is known about how their growth and phenology differ over the course of a growing season. The growing season is short in the Arctic and therefore exerts a strong selection pressure on tundra species. This raises the hypothesis that the phenology of arctic species may be poorly adapted if the timing and length of the growing season change. Mature E. vaginatum tussocks from across a latitudinal gradient (65–70°N) were transplanted into a common garden at a central location (Toolik Lake, 68°38′N, 149°36′W) where half were warmed using open-top chambers. Over two growing seasons (2015 and 2016), leaf length was measured weekly to track growth rates, timing of senescence, and biomass accumulation. Growth rates were similar across ecotypes and between years and were not affected by warming. However, southern populations accumulated significantly more biomass, largely because they started to senesce later. In 2016, peak biomass and senescence of most populations occurred later than in 2015, probably induced by colder weather at the beginning of the growing season in 2016, which caused a delayed start to growth. The finish was delayed as well. Differences in phenology between populations were largely retained between years, suggesting that the amount of time that these ecotypes grow has been selected by the length of the growing seasons at their respective home sites. As potential growing seasons lengthen, E. vaginatum may be unable to respond appropriately as a result of genetic control and may have reduced fitness in the rapidly warming Arctic tundra.

Arctic tundra; common garden; ecotypes; Eriophorum vaginatum ; growing season length; local adaptation; phenology; senescence

Ecology and Evolution: Volume 7, Issue 22

FundersNational Science Foundation
Publication date30/11/2017
Publication date online19/10/2017
Date accepted by journal31/08/2017

People (1)


Dr Tom Parker

Dr Tom Parker

Research Fellow, Biological and Environmental Sciences