skip to main content

Title: Area Not Geographic Isolation Mediates Biodiversity Responses of Alpine Refugia to Climate Change
Climate refugia, where local populations of species can persist through periods of unfavorable regional climate, play a key role in the maintenance of regional biodiversity during times of environmental change. However, the ability of refugia to buffer biodiversity change may be mediated by the landscape context of refugial habitats. Here, we examined how plant communities restricted to refugial sky islands of alpine tundra in the Colorado Rockies are changing in response to rapid climate change in the region (increased temperature, declining snowpack, and earlier snow melt-out) and if these biodiversity changes are mediated by the area or geographic isolation of the sky island. We resampled plant communities in 153 plots at seven sky islands distributed across the Colorado Rockies at two time points separated by 12 years (2007/2008–2019/2020) and found changes in taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional diversity over time. Specifically, we found an increase in species richness, a trend toward increased phylogenetic diversity, a shift toward leaf traits associated with the stress-tolerant end of leaf economics spectrum (e.g., lower specific leaf area, higher leaf dry matter content), and a decrease in the functional dispersion of specific leaf area. Importantly, these changes were partially mediated by refugial area but not by more » geographic isolation, suggesting that dispersal from nearby areas of tundra does not play a strong role in mediating these changes, while site characteristics associated with a larger area (e.g., environmental heterogeneity, larger community size) may be relatively more important. Taken together, these results suggest that considering the landscape context (area and geographic isolation) of refugia may be critical for prioritizing the conservation of specific refugial sites that provide the most conservation value. « less
Authors:
;
Award ID(s):
1637686
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10301474
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Volume:
9
ISSN:
2296-701X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. As the Arctic region moves into uncharted territory under a warming climate, it is important to refine the terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs) that help us understand and predict change. One fundamental uncertainty in TBMs relates to model parameters, configuration variables internal to the model whose value can be estimated from data. We incorporate a version of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM) developed for arctic ecosystems into the Predictive Ecosystem Analyzer (PEcAn) framework. PEcAn treats model parameters as probability distributions, estimates parameters based on a synthesis of available field data, and then quantifies both model sensitivity and uncertainty to a given parameter or suite of parameters. We examined how variation in 21 parameters in the equation for gross primary production influenced model sensitivity and uncertainty in terms of two carbon fluxes (net primary productivity and heterotrophic respiration) and two carbon (C) pools (vegetation C and soil C). We set up different parameterizations of TEM across a range of tundra types (tussock tundra, heath tundra, wet sedge tundra, and shrub tundra) in northern Alaska, along a latitudinal transect extending from the coastal plain near Utqiaġvik to the southern foothills of the Brooks Range, to the Seward Peninsula. TEM was most sensitive tomore »parameters related to the temperature regulation of photosynthesis. Model uncertainty was mostly due to parameters related to leaf area, temperature regulation of photosynthesis, and the stomatal responses to ambient light conditions. Our analysis also showed that sensitivity and uncertainty to a given parameter varied spatially. At some sites, model sensitivity and uncertainty tended to be connected to a wider range of parameters, underlining the importance of assessing tundra community processes across environmental gradients or geographic locations. Generally, across sites, the flux of net primary productivity (NPP) and pool of vegetation C had about equal uncertainty, while heterotrophic respiration had higher uncertainty than the pool of soil C. Our study illustrates the complexity inherent in evaluating parameter uncertainty across highly heterogeneous arctic tundra plant communities. It also provides a framework for iteratively testing how newly collected field data related to key parameters may result in more effective forecasting of Arctic change.« less
  2. Summary Though substantial effort has gone into predicting how global climate change will impact biodiversity patterns, the scarcity of taxon‐specific information has hampered the efficacy of these endeavors. Further, most studies analyzing spatiotemporal patterns of biodiversity focus narrowly on species richness. We apply machine learning approaches to a comprehensive vascular plant database for the United States and generate predictive models of regional plant taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity in response to a wide range of environmental variables. We demonstrate differences in predicted patterns and potential drivers of native vs nonnative biodiversity. In particular, native phylogenetic diversity is likely to decrease over the next half century despite increases in species richness. We also identify that patterns of taxonomic diversity can be incongruent with those of phylogenetic diversity. The combination of macro‐environmental factors that determine diversity likely varies at continental scales; thus, as climate change alters the combinations of these factors across the landscape, the collective effect on regional diversity will also vary. Our study represents one of the most comprehensive examinations of plant diversity patterns to date and demonstrates that our ability to predict future diversity may benefit tremendously from the application of machine learning.
  3. Abstract Climate change is anticipated to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts, with major impacts to ecosystems globally. Broad-scale assessments of vegetation responses to drought are needed to anticipate, manage, and potentially mitigate climate-change effects on ecosystems. We quantified the drought sensitivity of vegetation in the Pacific Northwest, USA, as the percent reduction in vegetation greenness under droughts relative to baseline moisture conditions. At a regional scale, shrub-steppe ecosystems—with drier climates and lower biomass—showed greater drought sensitivity than conifer forests. However, variability in drought sensitivity was considerable within biomes and within ecosystems and was mediated by landscape topography, climate, and soil characteristics. Drought sensitivity was generally greater in areas with higher elevation, drier climate, and greater soil bulk density. Ecosystems with high drought sensitivity included dry forests along ecotones to shrublands, Rocky Mountain subalpine forests, and cold upland sagebrush communities. In forests, valley bottoms and areas with low soil bulk density and high soil available water capacity showed reduced drought sensitivity, suggesting their potential as drought refugia. These regional-scale drought-sensitivity patterns discerned from remote sensing can complement plot-scale studies of plant physiological responses to drought to help inform climate-adaptation planning as drought conditions intensify.
  4. Abstract

    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.

  5. Raina, Jean-Baptiste (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Predicting outcomes of marine disease outbreaks presents a challenge in the face of both global and local stressors. Host-associated microbiomes may play important roles in disease dynamics but remain understudied in marine ecosystems. Host–pathogen–microbiome interactions can vary across host ranges, gradients of disease, and temperature; studying these relationships may aid our ability to forecast disease dynamics. Eelgrass, Zostera marina , is impacted by outbreaks of wasting disease caused by the opportunistic pathogen Labyrinthula zosterae . We investigated how Z. marina phyllosphere microbial communities vary with rising wasting disease lesion prevalence and severity relative to plant and meadow characteristics like shoot density, longest leaf length, and temperature across 23° latitude in the Northeastern Pacific. We detected effects of geography (11%) and smaller, but distinct, effects of temperature (30-day max sea surface temperature, 4%) and disease (lesion prevalence, 3%) on microbiome composition. Declines in alpha diversity on asymptomatic tissue occurred with rising wasting disease prevalence within meadows. However, no change in microbiome variability (dispersion) was detected between asymptomatic and symptomatic tissues. Further, we identified members of Cellvibrionaceae, Colwelliaceae, and Granulosicoccaceae on asymptomatic tissue that are predictive of wasting disease prevalence across the geographic range (3,100 kilometers). Functional roles of Colwelliaceae andmore »Granulosicoccaceae are not known. Cellvibrionaceae, degraders of plant cellulose, were also enriched in lesions and adjacent green tissue relative to nonlesioned leaves. Cellvibrionaceae may play important roles in disease progression by degrading host tissues or overwhelming plant immune responses. Thus, inclusion of microbiomes in wasting disease studies may improve our ability to understand variable rates of infection, disease progression, and plant survival. IMPORTANCE The roles of marine microbiomes in disease remain poorly understood due, in part, to the challenging nature of sampling at appropriate spatiotemporal scales and across natural gradients of disease throughout host ranges. This is especially true for marine vascular plants like eelgrass ( Zostera marina ) that are vital for ecosystem function and biodiversity but are susceptible to rapid decline and die-off from pathogens like eukaryotic slime-mold Labyrinthula zosterae (wasting disease). We link bacterial members of phyllosphere tissues to the prevalence of wasting disease across the broadest geographic range to date for a marine plant microbiome-disease study (3,100 km). We identify Cellvibrionaceae, plant cell wall degraders, enriched (up to 61% relative abundance) within lesion tissue, which suggests this group may be playing important roles in disease progression. These findings suggest inclusion of microbiomes in marine disease studies will improve our ability to predict ecological outcomes of infection across variable landscapes spanning thousands of kilometers.« less