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Title: Arctic riparian shrub expansion indicates a shift from streams gaining water to those that lose flow

Shrub expansion has been observed across the Arctic in recent decades along with warming air temperatures, but tundra shrub expansion has been most pronounced in protected landscape positions such as floodplains, streambanks, water tracks, and gullies. Here we show through field measurements and laboratory analyses how stream hydrology, permafrost, and soil microbial communities differed between streams in late summer with and without tall shrubs. Our goal was to assess the causes and consequences of tall shrub expansion in Arctic riparian ecosystems. Our results from Toolik Alaska, show greater canopy height and density, and distinctive plant and soil microbial communities along stream sections that lose water into unfrozen ground (talik) compared to gaining sections underlain by shallow permafrost. Leaf Area Index is linearly related to the change in streamflow per unit stream length, with the densest canopies coinciding with increasingly losing stream sections. Considering climate change and the circumpolar scale of riparian shrub expansion, we suggest that permafrost thaw and the resulting talik formation and shift in streamflow regime are occurring across the Low Arctic.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Communications Earth & Environment
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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