With the recent climate warming, tundra ecotones are facing a progressive acceleration of spring snowpack melting and extension of the growing season, with evident consequences to vegetation. Along with summer temperature, winter precipitation has been recently recognised as a crucial factor for tundra shrub growth and physiology. However, gaps of knowledge still exist on long-living plant responses to different snowpack duration, especially on how intra-specific and year-to-year variability together with multiple functional trait adjustments could influence the long-term responses. To fill this gap, we conducted a 3 years snow manipulation experiment above the Alpine treeline on the typical tundra species Juniperus communis, the conifer with the widest distributional range in the north emisphere. We tested shoot elongation, leaf area, stomatal density, leaf dry weight and leaf non-structural carbohydrate content of plants subjected to anticipated, natural and postponed snowpack duration. Anticipated snowpack melting enhanced new shoot elongation and increased stomatal density. However, plants under prolonged snow cover seemed to compensate for the shorter growing period, likely increasing carbon allocation to growth. In fact, these latter showed larger needles and low starch content at the beginning of the growing season. Variability between treatments slightly decreased over time, suggesting a progressive acclimation of juniper to new conditions. In the context of future warming scenarios, our results support the hypothesis of shrub biomass increase within the tundra biome. Yet, the picture is still far from being complete and further research should focus on transient and fading effects of changing conditions in the long term.

Transient Effects of Snow Cover Duration on Primary Growth and Leaf Traits in a Tundra Shrub

Sara Gargiulo;
2022

Abstract

With the recent climate warming, tundra ecotones are facing a progressive acceleration of spring snowpack melting and extension of the growing season, with evident consequences to vegetation. Along with summer temperature, winter precipitation has been recently recognised as a crucial factor for tundra shrub growth and physiology. However, gaps of knowledge still exist on long-living plant responses to different snowpack duration, especially on how intra-specific and year-to-year variability together with multiple functional trait adjustments could influence the long-term responses. To fill this gap, we conducted a 3 years snow manipulation experiment above the Alpine treeline on the typical tundra species Juniperus communis, the conifer with the widest distributional range in the north emisphere. We tested shoot elongation, leaf area, stomatal density, leaf dry weight and leaf non-structural carbohydrate content of plants subjected to anticipated, natural and postponed snowpack duration. Anticipated snowpack melting enhanced new shoot elongation and increased stomatal density. However, plants under prolonged snow cover seemed to compensate for the shorter growing period, likely increasing carbon allocation to growth. In fact, these latter showed larger needles and low starch content at the beginning of the growing season. Variability between treatments slightly decreased over time, suggesting a progressive acclimation of juniper to new conditions. In the context of future warming scenarios, our results support the hypothesis of shrub biomass increase within the tundra biome. Yet, the picture is still far from being complete and further research should focus on transient and fading effects of changing conditions in the long term.
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2022.822901/full
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Descrizione: The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2022.822901/full#supplementary-material
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/3029259
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