Advertisement

AMBIO

, 40:693 | Cite as

Forecasting Alpine Vegetation Change Using Repeat Sampling and a Novel Modeling Approach

  • David R. Johnson
  • Diane Ebert-May
  • Patrick J. Webber
  • Craig E. Tweedie
Article

Abstract

Global change affects alpine ecosystems by, among many effects, by altering plant distributions and community composition. However, forecasting alpine vegetation change is challenged by a scarcity of studies observing change in fixed plots spanning decadal-time scales. We present in this article a probabilistic modeling approach that forecasts vegetation change on Niwot Ridge, CO using plant abundance data collected from marked plots established in 1971 and resampled in 1991 and 2001. Assuming future change can be inferred from past change, we extrapolate change for 100 years from 1971 and correlate trends for each plant community with time series environmental data (1971–2001). Models predict a decreased extent of Snowbed vegetation and an increased extent of Shrub Tundra by 2071. Mean annual maximum temperature and nitrogen deposition were the primary a posteriori correlates of plant community change. This modeling effort is useful for generating hypotheses of future vegetation change that can be tested with future sampling efforts.

Keywords

Probabilistic modeling Alpine vegetation change Snowbeds Climate warming Plant community change 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This project was supported by the US National Science Foundation (ANS-0732885, OPP-9906692). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF. We are appreciative of comments and reviews offered by Christine Laney, Sandra Villarreal, and others at the Systems Ecology Lab at the University of Texas at El Paso.

References

  1. Armstrong, D.M., J.C. Halfpenny, and C.H. Southwick. 2001. Vertebrates. In Structure and function of an alpine ecosystem, ed. W.D. Bowman, and T.R. Seastedt, 128–156. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Björk, R.G., and U. Molau. 2007. Ecology of alpine snowbeds and the impact of global change. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 39: 34–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bowman, W.D., J.R. Garner, K. Holland, and M. Wiedermann. 2006. Nitrogen critical loads for alpine vegetation and terrestrial ecosystem response: Are we there yet? Ecological Applications 16: 1183–1193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bowman, W.D., and T.R. Seastedt. 2001. Structure and function of an alpine ecosystem: Niwot Ridge, Colorado. Long-term ecological research network series. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Callaghan, T.V. 1976. Strategies of growth and population dynamics of tundra plants. 3. Growth and population dynamics of Carex bigelowii in an alpine environment. Oikos 27: 402–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Callaghan, T.V., C.E. Tweedie, and P.J. Webber. 2011. Multi-decadal changes in tundra environments and ecosystems: The International Polar Year Back to the Future project (IPY-BTF). Ambio. doi: 10.1007/s13280-011-0162-4.
  7. Cannone, N., S. Sgorbatti, and M. Guglielmin. 2007. Unexpected impacts of climate change on alpine vegetation. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 5: 360–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chow, D.W. 2010. Changes in the timing of snowmelt and stream flow in Colorado: A response to recent warming. Journal of Climate Research 23: 2293–2306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Costa, P.M., and C. Wilson. 2000. An equivalence factor between CO2 avoided emissions and sequestration—description and applications in forestry. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 5: 51–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Costanza, R., and A. Voinov. 2001. Modeling ecological and economic systems with STELLA: Part III. Ecological Modeling 143: 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crimmens, S.M., S.Z. Dobrowski, J.A. Greenberg, J.T. Abatzoglou, and A.R. Mynsberge. 2011. Changes in climatic water balance drive downhill shifts in plant species’ optimum elevations. Science 331: 324–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dunne, J.A., J. Harte, and K.J. Taylor. 2003. Subalpine meadow flowering phenology responses to climate change: Integrating experimental and gradient methods. Ecological Monographs 73: 69–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ebert-May, D. 1973. Models for predicting composition and production of alpine tundra vegetation from Niwot Ridge, Colorado. MS Thesis, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO.Google Scholar
  14. Ebert-May, D. 1976. The response of alpine tundra vegetation in Colorado to environmental variation. PhD Thesis, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO.Google Scholar
  15. Ebert-May, D., and P.J. Webber. 1982. Spatial and temporal variation of vegetation and its productivity on Niwot Ridge, Colorado. In Ecological studies in the Colorado alpine, a festschrift for John W. Marr (Occasional paper number 37), ed. J. Halfpenny. Boulder: Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado.Google Scholar
  16. Epstein, H.E., Q. Yu, J.O. Kaplan, and H. Liscike. 2007. Simulating future changes in arctic and subarctic vegetation. Computing in Science and Engineering 9: 12–23.Google Scholar
  17. Erschammer, B., T. Kiebacher, M. Mallaun, and P. Unterluggauer. 2009. Short-term signals of climate change along an altitudinal gradient in the Southern Alps. Plant Ecology 202: 79–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Finzi, A.C., A.T. Austin, E.E. Cleland, S.D. Frey, B.Z. Houlton, and M.D. Wallenstein. 2011. Responses and feedbacks of coupled biogeochemical cycles to climate change: Examples from terrestrial ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9: 61–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gams, H. 1961. Erfassung und Dorstellung mehrdimensional verwantschaftbezeinhungen von Sippen und Lebengemeinschaften. Berichte des Geobotanischen Institutes der Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Stiftung Rübel Zurich 1960(32): 96–115.Google Scholar
  20. Gerdol, R., L. Brancaleoni, R. Marchesini, and L. Bragazza. 2002. Nutrient and carbon relations in subalpine dwarf shrubs after neighbor removal or fertilization in northern Italy. Oecologia 130: 476–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grant, W.E., and N.R. French. 1990. Responses of alpine tundra to a changing climate: A hierarchical simulation model. Ecological Modeling 49: 205–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Greenland, D., and M. Losleben. 2001. Climate. In Structure and function of an alpine ecosystem, ed. W.D. Bowman, and T.R. Seastedt, 15–31. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hallinger, M., M. Manthey, and M. Wilmking. 2010. Establishing a missing link: Warm summers and winter snow cover promote shrub expansion into alpine tundra in Scandinavia. New Phytologist 186: 890–899.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hedenås, H., H. Olsson, C. Jonasson, J. Bergstedt, U. Dahlberg, and T.V. Callaghan. 2011. Tree growth, biomass and vegetation changes over a thirteen-year period in the Swedish sub-arctic. Ambio. doi: 10.1007/s13280-011-0173-1.
  25. Komárková, V., and P.J. Webber. 1978. An alpine vegetation map of Niwot Ridge, Colorado. Arctic and Alpine Research 10: 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Körner, C. 1995. Alpine plant diversity: A global survey and functional interpretations. In Arctic and alpine biodiversity: Patterns, causes and ecosystem consequences, ed. F.S. Chapin III, and C. Körner, 45–62. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  27. Körner, C. 1999. Alpine plant life: Functional plant ecology of high mountain ecosystems. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  28. Kullman, L. 2010. A richer, greener and smaller alpine world: Review and projection of warming-induced plant cover change in the Swedish Scandes. Ambio 39: 159–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lesica, P., and B.M. Steele. 1996. A method for monitoring long-term population trends: An example using arctic and alpine plants. Ecological Applications 6: 879–887.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Litaor, M.I., M. Williams, and T.R. Seastedt. 2008. Topographic controls on snow distribution, soil moisture, and species diversity of herbaceous alpine vegetation, Niwot Ridge, Colorado. Journal of Geophysical Research 113: G02008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Manley, W.F., E.G. Parrish, and L.R. Lestak. 2009. High-resolution orthorectified imagery and digital elevation models for study of environmental change at Niwot Ridge and Green Lakes Valley, Colorado: Niwot Ridge LTER. Boulder: INSTAAR, University of Colorado at Boulder, digital media.Google Scholar
  32. Marr, J.W. 1961. Ecosystems of the east slope of the Front Range in Colorado. University of Colorado studies, series 8 in biology, 134 pp. Boulder: University of Colorado.Google Scholar
  33. Olofsson, J., L. Oksanen, T. Callaghan, P.E. Hulme, T. Oksanen, and O. Suominen. 2009. Herbivores inhibit climate-driven shrub expansion on the tundra. Global Change Biology 15: 2681–2693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pauli, H., M. Gottfried, and G. Grabherr. 1999. Vascular plant distribution patters at the low temperature limits of life—the alpine-nival ecotone of Mount Schrnakogel (Tyrol, Austria). Phytocoenologia 29: 297–325.Google Scholar
  35. Pauli, H., M. Gottfried, K. Reiter, C. Klettner, and G. Grabherr. 2007. Signals of range expansions and contractions of vascular plats in the high Alps: Observations (1994–2004) at the GLORIA master site Schrankogel, Tyrol, Austria. Global Change Biology 13: 147–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Scherrer, D., and C. Körner. 2010. Infra-red thermometry of alpine landscapes challenges climatic warming projections. Global Change Biology 16: 2602–2613.Google Scholar
  37. Scherrer, D., and C. Körner. 2011. Topographically controlled thermal-habitat differentiation buffers alpine plant diversity against climate warming. Journal of Biogeography 38: 406–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schob, C., P.M. Kammer, P. Choler, and H. Velt. 2009. Small-scale plant species distribution in snowbeds and its sensitivity to climate change. Polar Biology 200: 91–104.Google Scholar
  39. Schultz, E.D., and H.A. Mooney. 1993. Biodiversity and ecosystem function. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  40. Servilla, M., D. Costa, C. Laney, I. San Gil, and J. Brunt. 2008. The EcoTrends Web Portal: An architecture for data discovery and exploitation. Albuquerque: Environmental Information Management, University of New Mexico.Google Scholar
  41. Sherrod, S.K., T.R. Seastedt, and M.D. Walker. 2005. Northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides) control of alpine plant community structure. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 37: 585–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Suding, K.N., A.E. Miller, H. Bechtold, and W.D. Bowman. 2006. The consequences of species loss on ecosystem nitrogen cycling depends on community compensation. Oecologia 149: 141–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tieszen, L.L. 1978. Vegetation and production ecology of an Alaskan arctic tundra. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  44. Van Bogaert, R., K. Haneca, J. Hoogesteger, C. Jonasson, M.D. Dapper, and T.V. Callaghan. 2011. A century of tree line changes in sub-arctic Sweden shows local and regional variability and only a minor influence of 20th century climate warming. Journal of Biogeography 38: 907–921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Voinov, A., C. Fitz, R. Boumans, and R. Costanza. 2004. Modular ecosystem modeling. Environmental Modeling and Software 19: 285–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Volk, M., D. Obrist, K. Novak, R. Giger, S. Bassin, and J. Fuhrer. 2011. Subalpine grassland carbon dioxide fluxes indicate substantial carbon losses under increased nitrogen deposition, but not at elevated ozone concentrations. Global Change Biology 17: 366–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Walker, M.D., C.H. Wahren, R.D. Hollister, G.H.R. Henry, L.E. Ahlquist, J.M. Alatalo, M.S. Bret-Harte, et al. 2006. Plant community responses to experimental warming across the tundra biome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103: 1342–1346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Walker, M.D., D.A. Walker, T.A. Theodose, and P.J. Webber. 2001. The vegetation: hierarchical species–environment relationships. In Structure and function of an alpine ecosystem, ed. W.D. Bowman, and T.R. Seastedt, 99–127. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Walker, M.D., P.J. Webber, E.H. Arnold, and D. Ebert-May. 1994. Effects of interannual climate variation on aboveground phytomass in alpine vegetation. Ecology 76: 1067–1083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Webber, P.J. 1971. Gradient analysis of the vegetation around the Lewis Valle North-Central Baffin Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. PhD Thesis, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada.Google Scholar
  51. Webber, P.J., J.E. Emerick, D.C. Ebert May, and V. Komárková. 1976. Impacts of increased snowfall on alpine vegetation. In Ecological impacts of snowpack augmentation in the San Juan Mountains Colorado, ed. H.W. Steinhoff, and J.D. Ives, 201–264. Final report, San Juan Ecological Project, Colorado State University, Fort Collins.Google Scholar
  52. Williams, M.W., P.D. Brooks, and T. Seastedt. 1998. Nitrogen and carbon soil dynamics in response to climate change in a high-elevation ecosystem in the Rocky Mountains, U.S.A. Arctic and Alpine Research 30: 26–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wipf, S., and C. Rixen. 2010. A review of snow manipulation experiments in arctic and alpine tundra ecosystems. Polar Research 29: 95–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wipf, S., V. Stoeckli, and P. Bebi. 2009. Winter climate change in alpine tundra: Plant responses to changes in snow depth and snowmelt timing. Climatic Change 94: 105–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Woodward, F.I., and M.R. Lomas. 2004. Vegetation dynamics: Simulating responses to climatic change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Wookey, P.A., R. Aerts, R.D. Bardgett, F. Baptist, K.A. Brathen, J.H.C. Cornelissen, L. Gough, I.P. Hartley, et al. 2009. Ecosystem feedbacks and cascade processes: Understanding their role in the responses of arctic and alpine ecosystems to environmental change. Global Change Biology 15: 1153–1172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • David R. Johnson
    • 1
  • Diane Ebert-May
    • 2
  • Patrick J. Webber
    • 2
    • 3
  • Craig E. Tweedie
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant BiologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Ranchos de TaosUSA

Personalised recommendations