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Declining temperature and increasing moisture sensitivity of shrub growth in the Low-Arctic erect dwarf-shrub tundra of western Greenland
  • Stef Weijers
Stef Weijers
Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat Bonn

Corresponding Author:weijers@uni-bonn.de

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1. Evergreen dwarf shrubs respond swiftly to warming in the cool and dry High Arctic, but their response in the warmer Low Arctic, where they are expected to be outcompeted by taller species under future warming, remains to be clarified. 2. Here, 12,528 annual growth increments, covering 122 years (1893-2014), were measured of 764 branches from 25 individuals of the evergreen dwarf shrub Cassiope tetragona from a Low-Arctic erect dwarf-shrub tundra site in western Greenland. In addition, branch initiation and mortality frequency time-series were developed. The influence of seasonal climate and correspondence with fluctuations in regional normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), a satellite-proxy for vegetation productivity, were studied. 3. Winter temperatures were an important co-driver, summer temperatures the main driver of growth. During past and recent warm episodes, shrub growth diverged from summer temperatures. In recent decades, early summer precipitation has become the main growth-limiting factor for some individuals, likely through micro-topography-determined soil moisture availability, and more than half of the shrubs studied became irresponsive to summer temperatures. There was correspondence between climatic drivers, C. tetragona growth and branch initiation frequency, and satellite-observed vegetation productivity, suggesting the area’s shrub-dominated tundra vegetation is limited by similar climatic factors. Winter warming events were likely the predominant cause of branch mortality, while branching increased after years with poor growth and cooler-than-average summers. 4. Synthesis These findings show that the erect dwarf-shrub tundra in the Low Arctic has and will likely become less temperature- and increasingly moisture-limited and that winter warming supports shrub growth, but increased extreme winter warming event-frequency may increase branch mortality and vegetation damage. Such counter-acting mechanisms could offer an explanation for the vegetation stability observed over large parts of the Arctic.
28 Jan 2022Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
28 Jan 2022Submission Checks Completed
28 Jan 2022Assigned to Editor
04 Feb 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
04 Feb 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
06 Jun 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
15 Sep 20221st Revision Received
16 Sep 2022Assigned to Editor
16 Sep 2022Submission Checks Completed
16 Sep 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
22 Sep 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
22 Sep 20222nd Revision Received
22 Sep 2022Submission Checks Completed
22 Sep 2022Assigned to Editor
22 Sep 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
27 Sep 2022Editorial Decision: Accept