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  • 1. Milbau, Ann
    et al.
    Vandeplas, Nicolas
    Kockelbergh, Fred
    Nijs, Ivan
    Both seed germination and seedling mortality increase with experimental warming and fertilization in a subarctic tundra2017In: AoB Plants, ISSN 2041-2851, E-ISSN 2041-2851, Vol. 9Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Climate change is expected to force many species in arctic regions to migrate and track their climatic niche. This requires recruitment from seed, which currently shows very low rates in arctic regions, where long-lived and vegetatively reproducing plants dominate. Therefore, we pose the question whether recruitment (germination and seedling establishment) in arctic regions will significantly improve in a warmer world, and thus allow species to follow their climatic niche. We used a full factorial experiment to examine if realistic warmer temperatures (+3 degrees C; infrared radiation) and increased nitrogen availability (+1.4 g N m(-2) year(-1)) affected germination, seedling survival and above-and below-ground seedling biomass in five species common in subarctic regions (Anthoxanthum odoratum, Betula nana, Pinus sylvestris, Solidago virgaurea, Vaccinium myrtillus). We found that warming increased seedling emergence in all species, but that subsequent mortality also increased, resulting in no net warming effect on seedling establishment. Warming slightly increased above-ground seedling biomass. Fertilization, on the other hand, did not influence seedling biomass, but it increased seedling establishment in B. nana while it reduced establishment in V. myrtillus. This may help B. nana dominate over V. myrtillus in warmer tundra. Surprisingly, no interactive effects between warming and fertilization were found. The lack of a general positive response of seedling establishment to warmer and more nutrient-rich conditions suggests that (sub) arctic species may experience difficulties in tracking their climatic niche. Predictions of future species distributions in arctic regions solely based on abiotic factors may therefore overestimate species’ ranges due to their poor establishment. Also, the opposite response to fertilization of two key (sub) arctic dwarf shrubs, i.e. B. nana and V. myrtillus, could have important implications for the future development of arctic plant communities and argues for more research into the role of fertilization for plant establishment.

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