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Creators/Authors contains: "Weintraub, Michael N."

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  1. Abstract

    The timing and duration of the plant growing season and its period of peak activity have shifted globally in response to climate change. These changes alter the period of maximum and potential total carbon uptake, especially in highly seasonal environments such as the Arctic. Earlier plant growth has been observed, and if plant senescence remains the same or is delayed, growing season extension will likely lead to greater carbon uptake and growth. We used phenology data from a multifactor climate change experiment to examine how altered seasonality influences the timing and rate‐of‐senescence and to compare direct observations of individual plant senescence with mathematical models of onset‐of‐senescence based on near‐surface remote sensing. Our three‐year experiment in an Arctic tundra ecosystem altered plant microclimates through factorial warming and earlier snowmelt treatments. We found that (1) early snowmelt and warmer temperatures led to earlier remotely sensed onset‐of‐senescence, but did not alter the rate‐of‐senescence, (2) the timing of color change for individual vascular plants did not change in response to the treatments, leading to a mismatch with remotely sensed phenology, and (3) cumulative, phenologically dependent microclimate metrics (e.g., soil cold degree‐days) best predicted the onset‐of‐senescence. Our study highlights the complexity of observing and understanding controls over phenological shifts that affect plant growth and consequently ecosystem functions. Experimental studies that include multiple approaches to observe and model phenological changes and microclimate are critical to develop phenological forecasting models.

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  2. Abstract

    In addition to warming temperatures, Arctic ecosystems are responding to climate change with earlier snowmelt and soil thaw. Earlier snowmelt has been examined infrequently in field experiments, and we lack a comprehensive look at belowground responses of the soil biogeochemical system that includes plant roots, decomposers, and soil nutrients. We experimentally advanced the timing of snowmelt in factorial combination with an open‐top chamber warming treatment over a 3‐year period and evaluated the responses of decomposers and nutrient cycling processes. We tested two alternative hypotheses: (a) Early snowmelt and warming advance the timing of root growth and nutrient uptake, altering the timing of microbial and invertebrate activity and key nutrient cycling events; and (b) loss of insulating snow cover damages plants, leading to reductions in root growth and altered biological activity. During the 3 years of our study (2010–2012), we advanced snowmelt by 4, 15, and 10 days, respectively. Despite advancing aboveground plant phenology, particularly in the year with the warmest early‐season temperatures (2012), belowground effects were primarily seen only on the first sampling date of the season or restricted to particular years or soil type. Overall, consistent and substantial responses to early snowmelt were not observed, counter to both of our hypotheses. The data on soil physical conditions, as well interannual comparisons of our results, suggest that this limited response was because of the earlier date of snowmelt that did not coincide with substantially warmer air and soil temperatures as they might in response to a natural climate event. We conclude that the interaction of snowmelt timing with soil temperatures is important to how the ecosystem will respond, but that 1‐ to 2‐week changes in timing of snowmelt alone are not enough to drive season‐long changes in soil microbial and nutrient cycling processes.

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