Species removal and experimental warming in a subarctic tundra plant community Academic Article uri icon


  • Neighbor interactions are likely to play an important role in subarctic plant communities. We conducted experiments in Interior Alaska in which we crossed species removal with greenhouse warming manipulations. We examined changes in community biomass, and in plant survival and growth of individual species in response to experimental warming and to: (1) removal of whole species versus an equivalent amount of biomass across many species, and (2) removal of subdominant (locally common) versus minor (locally uncommon) plants. Community biomass indicated compensation in growth after removal of minor species and after biomass removal without elimination of entire species, but under-compensation after removal of subdominants. Growth and survival of individual species showed facilitation between some species. Warming increased growth of dominant vascular plants, but at the same time reduced survival, and these impacts were greater for larger, more mesic species than for the smaller species associated with drier habitats. Growth of mosses was reduced by the warming. Removal effects did not differ between warming and ambient conditions. The results indicate that common species are able to reduce resources for others (competitive effect) and increase their growth after neighbor removal, whereas locally uncommon species are not able to respond rapidly to increased resources made available by neighbor removal. Therefore, the impact of the presence of common species on locally uncommon species was facilitative overall, but not vice versa. The balance between disturbances such as changes in temperature and species losses from the community will likely be crucial in determining shifts in subsequent community composition.

publication date

  • August 2009