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Mosses as mediators of climate change: implications for tree seedling establishment in the tundra
Umeå universitet, Institutionen för ekologi, miljö och geovetenskap.
Responsible organisation
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Alpine and arctic tree line expansion depends on the establishment of tree seedlings above the current tree line, which is expected to occur with climate warming. However, tree lines often fail to respond to higher temperatures. Other environmental factors are therefore likely important for tree seedling establishment. Above the tree line, establishing seedlings encounter existing vegetation such as bryophytes, which often dominate in arctic and alpine tundra. Bryophytes modify their environment in various ways and may mediate climate change effects on establishing tree seedlings, and with that tree line expansion. The aim of this thesis was to understand if and how the environment, in particular bryophytes, mediates the impact of climate change on tree seedling establishment at the alpine and arctic tree line. This was explored by reviewing literature on tree seedling establishment at alpine and arctic tree lines globally. In addition, tree seedling survival and growth of Betula pubescens and Pinus sylvestris were assessed experimentally. Here, individuals were planted into mono-specific mats of different bryophytes species and exposed to warming and different precipitation regimes. The literature review revealed that besides from temperature, tree seedling establishment is affected by a wide range of abiotic and biotic factors including water, snow, nutrients, light, disturbance and surrounding vegetation. Furthermore the review revealed that for example vegetation can change tree seedling responses to climate change. The experiments showed that especially tree seedling survival was adversely affected by the presence of bryophytes and that the impacts of bryophytes were larger than those of the climate treatments. Seedling growth, on the other hand, was not hampered by the presence of bryophytes, which is in line with earlier findings that seedling survival, growth and seed germination do not respond similarly to changes in environmental conditions. Moreover, we found several indications that vegetation above the tree line, including bryophytes, mediated tree seedling responses to warming and precipitation or snow cover. This thesis shows that temperature alone should not be used to predict future tree seedling establishment above the alpine and arctic tree line and that extrapolations from climate envelope models could strongly over or under estimate tree line responses to warming. This underlines the value of multi-factorial studies for understanding the interplay between warming and other environmental factors and their effects on tree seedling establishment across current tree lines.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University , 2017. , 26 p.
Keyword [en]
arctic, alpine, B. pubescens, bryophytes, competition, facilitation, mosses, P. sylvestris, precipitation changes, seedlings, traits, tree line, warming
National Category
Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:polar:diva-3447ISBN: 978-91-7601-654-1 OAI: oai:DiVA.org:polar-3447DiVA: diva2:1079871
Public defence
2017-02-24, Björken, SLU, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-03-20 Created: 2017-03-09 Last updated: 2017-06-02Bibliographically approved

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