University of Oulu

Kemppinen, J. and Niittynen, P. (2022), Microclimate relationships of intraspecific trait variation in sub-Arctic plants. Oikos, 2022: e09507.

Microclimate relationships of intraspecific trait variation in sub-Arctic plants

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Author: Kemppinen, Julia1; Niittynen, Pekka2
Organizations: 1Geography Research Unit, Univ. of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Dept of Geosciences and Geography, Univ. of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-06-27


Within-species trait variation is a substantial part of plant functional diversity. However, this intraspecific trait variation (ITV) is rarely investigated in relation to a key characteristic of the Arctic and alpine ecosystems: fine-scale microclimatic heterogeneity. Here, we quantified the influence of microclimate (soil moisture, snow and local temperatures) on plant functional traits, specifically on ITV. We focused on six widespread northern latitude vascular plant species, and measured four traits: plant height, leaf area, leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and specific leaf area (SLA). We related ITV to field and remotely sensed microclimate data from 150 study plots within six study grids. The grids were located within a 76-m altitudinal belt in three environments: the tundra, tundra–forest ecotone and mountain birch forest in Kilpisjärvi, northwestern Finland. We compared the range of trait values between this local trait dataset (n = 5493) and global trait databases (n = 10 383). We found that information in the local dataset covers a relatively large portion of the trait ranges in global databases. The proportion varies among traits and species; the largest portion was 74% for variation in leaf area of Vaccinium uliginosum, and the lowest was 19% for LDMC of Betula nana. We found that ITV in height was mostly related to local temperatures, whereas SLA and LDMC were more related to soil moisture and snow conditions. However, species showed contrasting relationships with the microclimate drivers. We conclude that microclimate profoundly shapes ITV in northern latitude plants and that even a very compact geographic area can contain a large amount of ITV. The influence of the microclimatic conditions varies among functional traits and species, which indicates that plastic response or adaptive potential of the species to climate change may also vary across species, but that necessary variation may often be present within local plant populations.

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Series: Oikos
ISSN: 0030-1299
ISSN-E: 1600-0706
ISSN-L: 0030-1299
Volume: 2022
Issue: 12
Article number: e09507
DOI: 10.1111/oik.09507
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
Funding: JK was funded by the Arctic Interactions at the University of Oulu and Academy of Finland (project number 318930, Profi 4). PN was funded by the Nessling Foundation. JK and PN acknowledge funding by the Finnish Cultural Foundation via the Foundations' Post Doc Pool and the Arctic Researchers' Network at the Thule Institute at the University of Oulu.
Dataset Reference: Data and code are available at Zenodo digital repository: <>, (Niittynen and Kemppinen 2022).
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. Oikos published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.