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Title: Phenological mismatch between season advancement and migration timing alters Arctic plant traits

Climate change is creating phenological mismatches between herbivores and their plant resources throughout the Arctic. While advancing growing seasons and changing arrival times of migratory herbivores can have consequences for herbivores and forage quality, developing mismatches could also influence other traits of plants, such as above‐ and below‐ground biomass and the type of reproduction, that are often not investigated.

In coastal western Alaska, we conducted a 3‐year factorial experiment that simulated scenarios of phenological mismatch by manipulating the start of the growing season (3 weeks early and ambient) and grazing times (3 weeks early, typical, 3 weeks late, or no‐grazing) of Pacific black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans), to examine how the timing of these events influence a primary goose forage species,Carex subspathacea.

After 3 years, an advanced growing season compared to a typical growing season increased stem heights, standing dead biomass, and the number of inflorescences. Early season grazing compared to typical season grazing reduced above‐ and below‐ground biomass, stem height, and the number of tillers; while late season grazing increased the number of inflorescences and standing dead biomass. Therefore, an advanced growing season and late grazing had similar directional effects on most plant traits, but a 3‐week delay in grazing had more » an impact on traits 3–5 times greater than a similarly timed shift in the advancement of spring. In addition, changes in response to treatments for some variables, such as the number of inflorescences, were not measurable until the second year of the experiment, while other variables, such as root productivity and number of tillers, changed the direction of their responses to treatments over time.

Synthesis. Factors affecting the timing of migration have a larger influence than earlier springs on an important forage species in the breeding and rearing habitats of Pacific black brant. The phenological mismatch prediction for this site of earlier springs and later goose arrival will likely increase above‐ and below‐ground biomass and sexual reproduction of the often‐clonally reproducingC. subspathacea. Finally, the implications of mismatch may be difficult to predict because some variables required successive years of mismatch to respond.

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Award ID(s):
1304523 1633756
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Ecology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 2503-2518
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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