Alpine tundra ecosystems are highly vulnerable to climate warming but are governed by local‐scale abiotic heterogeneity, which makes it difficult to predict tundra responses to environmental change. Although land models are typically implemented at global scales, they can be applied at local scales to address process‐based ecological questions. In this study, we ran ecosystem‐scale Community Land Model (CLM) simulations with a novel hillslope hydrology configuration to represent topographically heterogeneous alpine tundra vegetation across a moisture gradient at Niwot Ridge, Colorado, USA. We used local observations to evaluate our simulations and investigated the role of topography and aspect in mediating patterns of snow, productivity, soil moisture, and soil temperature, as well as the potential exposure to climate change across an alpine tundra hillslope. Overall, our simulations captured observed gradients in abiotic conditions and productivity among heterogeneous, hydrologically connected vegetation communities (moist, wet, and dry). We found that south facing aspects were characterized by reduced snowpack and drier and warmer soils in all communities. When we extended our simulations to the year 2100, we found that earlier snowmelt altered the timing of runoff, with cascading effects on soil moisture, productivity, and growing season length. However, these effects were not distributed equally across the tundra, highlighting potential vulnerabilities of alpine vegetation in dry, wind‐scoured, and south facing areas. Overall, our results demonstrate how land model outputs can be applied to advance process‐based understanding of climate change impacts on ecosystem function.
Earlier snowmelt, warmer temperatures and herbivory are among the factors that influence high-latitude tundra productivity near the town of Utqiaġvik in northern Alaska. However, our understanding of the potential interactions between these factors is limited. MODIS observations provide cover fractions of vegetation, snow, standing water, and soil, and fractional absorption of photosynthetically active radiation by canopy chlorophyll (fAPARchl) per pixel. Here, we evaluated a recent time-period (2001–2014) that the tundra experienced large interannual variability in vegetation productivity metrics (i.e. fAPARchland APARchl), which was explainable by both abiotic and biotic factors. We found earlier snowmelt to increase soil and vegetation cover, and productivity in June, while warmer temperatures significantly increased monthly productivity. However, abiotic factors failed to explain stark decreases in productivity during August of 2008, which coincided with a severe lemming outbreak. MODIS observations found this tundra ecosystem to completely recover two years later, resulting in elevated productivity. This study highlights the potential roles of both climate and herbivory in modulating the interannual variability of remotely retrieved plant productivity metrics in Arctic coastal tundra ecosystems.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- IOP Publishing
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Environmental Research Letters
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- Article No. 094070
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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