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Responses to natural climatic variation and experimental warming in two tundra plant species with contrasting life forms: Cassiope tetragona and Ranunculus nivalis

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Two circumpolar tundra plant species, the evergreen dwarfshrub Cassiope tetragona and the perennial herb Ranunculus nivalis, were studied at Latnjajaure in northern Swedish Lapland during three consecutive growing seasons (1993–95) as a contribution to the ITEX programme. Open‐top chambers (OTCs) were used in a passive heating experiment, and the performance of the plants in unmanipulated controls was correlated with climatic fluctuations among the years. Phenological, vegetative, and reproductive variables were measured. In both species phenological responses were controlled mainly by ambient air temperature. In the evergreen C. tetragona vegetative growth was controlled mainly by the influx of global solar radiation and was not temperature‐dependent, whereas the opposite applied in the herbaceous R. nivalis. Vegetative growth in C. tetragona was rather stable among years as well as between treatments, whereas it was strongly influenced by annual climate in R. nivalis. Both species increased their reproductive success with increasing temperature, but R. nivalis was also radiation‐dependent in this case, probably because of its green, photosynthetic nutlets. Ovule number in R. nivalis increased steadily in the experimentally heated plots during the study in response to the constant temperature amelioration above the ambient. At the community level, evergreen C. tetragona seems to have low competitive ability under warmer conditions. The situation for vernal low‐growing herbs like R. nivalis is more complex; despite a strong positive response to increased temperature, they may exhibit decreased reproductive success if overgrown by a vigorous graminoid canopy.
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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: Department of Systematic Botany, University of Göteborg, Carl Skottsbergs Gata 22B, S-413 19 Göteborg, Sweden

Publication date: 1997-12-01

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