Herbivory and Climate Warming

Reindeer herd
Reindeer herd. Picture: A. Eskelinen

About the project:

Global climate warming is expected to lead to dramatic shifts in plant community assembly and diversity in tundra ecosystems. However, these changes can be modulated or reversed by herbivory and nutrient availability which can affect immigration of lowland species and losses of native tundra species. Trait-based mechanisms are likely to mediate these shifts. We use a long-term field experiment located in northern Finland to manipulate temperature (using open top chambers), soil nutrients (using fertilization) and herbivory (using fences) to investigate interactions among climate warming, nutrients, herbivory and plant functional traits.

Main question:

Can herbivory and nutrient availability modulate climate warming effects on tundra plant communities?

Main approaches:

  1. We use addition of lowland seeds and transplants to address invasion success and plant fitness under warming, fertilization and exclusion of herbivory
  2. We follow changes in community composition and diversity over the years and use plant functional traits to predict species losses and gains
  3. We measure different soil variables (e.g. nutrients, microbial biomass and enzyme activities) to examine interactions between above- and below-ground systems.

Some references:

Eskelinen, A., Kaarlejärvi, E. & Olofsson, J. 2017. Herbivory and nutrient limitation protect warming tundra from lowland species’ invasion and diversity loss. Global Change Biology 23, 245 – 255.

Kaarlejärvi, E., Eskelinen, A., Olofsson, J. 2017. Herbivores rescue diversity in warming tundra by modulating trait-dependent species losses and gains. Nature Communications 8, art 419.

Experimental site in Kilpisjärvi, Northern Finland
Experimental site in Kilpisjärvi, Northern Finland. Picture: A. Eskelinen