University of Oulu

Saccone, P., Hoikka, K., Virtanen, R. (2017) What if plant functional types conceal species-specific responses to environment? Study on arctic shrub communities. Ecology, 98 (6), 1600-1612. doi:

What if plant functional types conceal species‐specific responses to environment? : study on arctic shrub communities

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Author: Saccone, Patrick1; Hoikka, Kristiina2; Virtanen, Risto1,3,4
Organizations: 1Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu
3Department of Physiological Diversity, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research - UFZ
4German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2017
Publish Date: 2019-03-20


Plant functional types (PFT) are increasingly used to outline biome‐scale plant–environment relationship and predict global change effects on community structure. However, the potentials and limitations of the PFT approach have to be tested as they can be less sensitive than trait‐based or species‐level approaches. Here, we compare the responses of deciduous‐evergreen shrub PFTs and species to gradual snow‐related environmental conditions by also considering effects of aboveground architectural traits and neighboring shrubs. Five deciduous species and four evergreen dwarf shrub species were transplanted to be exposed to four levels of winter snow cover across mesotopographic gradients in northern Fennoscandian tundra. The survival and growth of individually tagged shoots were monitored over one year, and the change in cover of shrubs was monitored over four years. Evergreen species showed higher resistance to environmental severity and generally benefitted from higher abundance of neighboring shrubs. Deciduous species exhibited negligible to drastic responses to snow thickness and neighboring shrubs tended to have a negative effect on their performance and survival. Tall shoots of deciduous shrubs survived poorly under the thinnest snow cover. Overall, deciduous and evergreen PFTs showed modest differences in their performances along the gradient. Our results show that deciduous‐evergreen leaf phenology categories predict shrub responses to changing environmental conditions only to a limited extent. Our findings highlight strong species‐specific responses especially among deciduous shrubs, and a differential role of plant–plant interactions for shrubs. Our results emphasize that distribution patterns of arctic‐alpine shrubs and shrub community responses to altered snow regimes depend on species‐level plant functional attributes, species interactions and species‐specific sensitivities to environmental severity.

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Series: Ecology
ISSN: 0012-9658
ISSN-E: 1939-9170
ISSN-L: 0012-9658
Volume: 98
Issue: 6
Pages: 1600 - 1612
DOI: 10.1002/ecy.1817
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1172 Environmental sciences
1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 259072
Detailed Information: 259072 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2017 by the Ecological Society of America.