University of Oulu

Vuorinen, K., Austrheim, G., Tremblay, J.-P., Myers-Smith, I. H., Hortman, H. I., Frank, P., Barrio, I. C., Dalerum, F., Björkman, M. P., Björk, R. G., Ehrich, D., Sokolov, A., Sokolova, N., Ropars, P., Boudreau, S., Normand, S., Prendin, A. L., Schmidt, N. M., Pacheco, A., … Speed, J. D. M. (2022). Growth rings show limited evidence for ungulates’ potential to suppress shrubs across the Arctic. Environmental Research Letters.

Growth rings show limited evidence for ungulates’ potential to suppress shrubs across the Arctic

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Author: Vuorinen, Katariina E. M.1; Austrheim, Gunnar1; Tremblay, Jean-Pierre2,3,4;
Organizations: 1Department of Natural History, NTNU University Museum, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway
2Department of Biology, Laval University, 1045, avenue de la Médecine, Québec City, Québec G1V 0A6, Canada
3Center for Forest Research, 8888, Succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, Québec, H3C 3P8, Canada
4Center for Northern Studies, Laval University, 2405, rue de la Terrasse, Québec City, Québec G1V 0A6, Canada
5School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3FF, United Kingdom
6Faculty of Environmental and Forest Sciences, Agricultural University of Iceland, ´Arleyni 22, Keldnaholt, IS-112 Reykjavík, Iceland
7Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
8Biodiversity Research Institute (CSIC, UO, PA), Spanish National Research Council, Mieres 33600, Spain
9Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Hatfield, 0028 Pretoria, South Africa
10Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg, PO Box 460, SE-40530 Göteborg, Sweden
11Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre, PO Box 461, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
12Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, UiT—The Arctic University of Norway, 9037 Tromsø, Norway
13Arctic Research Station of the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 629400, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Labytnangi, Zelenaya Gorka 21, Russia
14Chaire de recherche du Canada en biodiversité nordique, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 300 allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, Québec G5L 3A1, Canada
15Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment, McGill University, 21111 Lakeshore Rd, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue QC H9X 3V9, Canada
16Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity and Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World, Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Aarhus 8000, Denmark
17Arctic Research Centre, Department of Ecoscience, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, Roskilde 4000, Denmark
18The Earth Institute Tree-Ring Laboratory Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY 10964, United States of America
19Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, United States of America
20Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University, Aarhus C 8000, Denmark
21Environment and Natural Resources Institute, University of Alaska Anchorage, 3211 Providence Dr, Anchorage, AK 99508, United States of America
22Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway
23Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, NO-7034 Trondheim, Norway
24Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Ulls väg 16, 75651 Uppsala, Sweden
25Biodiversity Section, Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, No-9296 Tromsø, Norway
26Department of Biological Sciences, Towson University, Towson, MD 21252, United States of America
27Toolik Field Station, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, United States of America
28Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation Group, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
29Forest Ecology and Management Group, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, 6708PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
30Institute of Geoecology and Geoinformation, Adam Mickiewicz University, B.Krygowskiego 10, 61-680 Poznan, Poland
31Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, Oulu 940014, Finland
32Department of Biological Science, University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska 99508, United States of America
33University of the Arctic (UArctic), Rovaniemi, Finland
34Department of Biology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada
35Nunavik Parks, Kativik Regional Government, PO Box 9, Kuujjuaq (Quebec) J0M 1C0, Canada
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: IOP Publishing, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-05-17


Global warming has pronounced effects on tundra vegetation, and rising mean temperatures increase plant growth potential across the Arctic biome. Herbivores may counteract the warming impacts by reducing plant growth, but the strength of this effect may depend on prevailing regional climatic conditions. To study how ungulates interact with temperature to influence growth of tundra shrubs across the Arctic tundra biome, we assembled dendroecological data from 20 sites, comprising 1153 individual shrubs and 223 63 annual growth rings. Evidence for ungulates suppressing shrub radial growth was only observed at intermediate summer temperatures (6.5 °C–9 °C), and even at these temperatures the effect was not strong. Multiple factors, including forage preferences and landscape use by the ungulates, and favourable climatic conditions enabling effective compensatory growth of shrubs, may weaken the effects of ungulates on shrubs, possibly explaining the weakness of observed ungulate effects. Earlier local studies have shown that ungulates may counteract the impacts of warming on tundra shrub growth, but we demonstrate that ungulates’ potential to suppress shrub radial growth is not always evident, and may be limited to certain climatic conditions.

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Series: Environmental research letters
ISSN: 1748-9318
ISSN-E: 1748-9326
ISSN-L: 1748-9326
Volume: 17
Article number: 034013
DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac5207
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: The core funding for the study was provided by the Research Council of Norway (Project nr. 262064). With regards to individual datasets, we wish to thank the following funding sources: Fieldwork in Iceland was supported by the Icelandic Research Fund (Rannsóknasjóður, Grant 152468‐051); The fence study and shrub sampling in Erkuta was supported by the Russian Fund of Basic Research (Grant #18-05-60261) and the terrestrial flagship of the Fram Centre (362259 Yamal EcoSystem); The fence studies in Hol and Setesdal were funded by the Research Council of Norway (NFR FRIMEDBIO 262064); Herbivory data collection in Kangerlussuaq was funded by National Geographic Society for Research and Exploration and shrub-ring work by the National Science Foundation (United States), Office of Polar Programs Award Numbers OPP-1108425 to P F S and J M W and OPP-1107381 to E P, with additional support by the National Science Foundation (United States), Division of Environmental Biology Award Numbers DEB-0217259 and DEB-0415843 to E P; Jeff Kerby was supported by funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 754513 and The Aarhus University Research Foundation; work by Robert G Björk on Swedish reindeer data and shrub sampling was funded by The Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development, FORMAS (Grant 214-2010-1411), and The Swedish Research Council, VR (Grant 621-2014-5315); shrub data from Svalbard was funded by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Research Council of Norway (Projects 223257, 216051 and 276080), and annual reindeer censuses (Brøggerhalvøya) were funded by the Norwegian Polar Institute; Shrub data collection at Toolik was supported by Polish-US Fulbright Commission, National Science Foundation-Arctic Observing Network, and the Arctic LTER (US National Science Foundation Grant #1637459), and the herbivore data by Toolik Field Station Environmental Data Center and the State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game; Data from Deception Bay were acquired through the Caribou Ungava research program funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec, ArcticNet, Hydro Québec, Glencore, Fédération des pourvoiries du Québec inc., and Makivik Corporation; Daring Lake shrub and herbivory data collection was supported by the NSERC Discovery and USRA Grants (PG and RA respectively); work by Arturo Pacheco-Solana and Angela L. Prendin on shrub data from Zackenberg was supported by the Villum Young Investigator Programme (VKR023456 to Signe Normand); Qikiqtaruk shrub and herbivory data collection was supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council ShrubTundra Grant (NE/M016323/1) to Isla Myers-Smith and NSERC and the Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund to Sandra Angers‐Blondin; Shrub collection in Chokurdakh was financed by the Darwin Center for Biogeosciences, Wageningen Institute for Environment and Climate Research (WIMEK) and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO, Vidi Grant 864.09.014) and received logistic support from the Institute for Biological Problems of the Cryolithozone of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yakutsk and the Regional Inspection of Nature Protection of Allaikhovsky Region, Chokurdakh, and from NWO Earth and Life Sciences, Project ALWPP. 2016.008 for Rúna Í. Magnússon.
Copyright information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd. Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.