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  1. Abstract

    Tundra shrubs reflect climate sensitivities in their growth-ring widths, yet tissue-specific shrub chronologies are poorly studied. Further, the relative importance of regional climate patterns that exert mesoscale precipitation and temperature influences on tundra shrub growth has been explored in only a few Arctic locations. Here, we investigateBetula nanagrowth-ring chronologies from adjacent dry heath and moist tussock tundra habitats in arctic Alaska in relation to local and regional climate. Mean shrub and five tissue-specific ring width chronologies were analyzed using serial sectioning of above- and below-ground shrub organs, resulting in 30 shrubs per site with 161 and 104 cross sections from dry and moist tundra, respectively.Betula nanagrowth-ring widths in both habitats were primarily related to June air temperature (1989–2014). The strongest relationships with air temperature were found for ‘Branch2’ chronologies (dry site:r = 0.78, June 16, DOY = 167; moist site:r = 0.75, June 9, DOY = 160). Additionally, below-ground chronologies (‘Root’ and ‘Root2’) from the moist site were positively correlated with daily mean air temperatures in the previous late-June (‘Root2’ chronology:r = 0.57, pDOY = 173). Most tissue-specific chronologies exhibited the strongest correlations with daily mean air temperature during the period between 8 and 20 June. Structural equation modeling indicated that shrub growth is indirectly linked to regional Arctic and Pacificmore »Decadal Oscillation (AO and PDO) climate indices through their relation to summer sea ice extent and air temperature. Strong dependence ofBetula nanagrowth on early growing season temperature indicates a highly coordinated allocation of resources to tissue growth, which might increase its competitive advantage over other shrub species under a rapidly changing Arctic climate.

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  2. Vertebrate herbivore excrement is thought to influence nutrient cycling, plant nutrition, and growth; however, its importance is rarely isolated from other aspects of herbivory, such as trampling and leaf removal, leaving questions about the extent to which herbivore effects are due to feces. We hypothesized that as a source of additional nutrients, feces would directly increase soil N concentrations and N2O emission, alleviate plant, and microbial nutrient limitations, resulting in increased plant growth and foliar quality, and increase CH4 emissions. We tested these hypotheses using a field experiment in coastal western Alaska,USA, where we manipulated goose feces such that naturally grazed areas received three treatments:feces removal, ambient amounts of feces, or double ambient amounts of feces. Doubling feces marginally increased NH4 +-N in soil water, whereas both doubled feces and feces removal significantly increased NO3--N; N2O flux was also higher in removal plots. Feces removal marginally reduced root biomass and significantly reduced productivity (that is, GPP) in the second year, measured as greater CO2 emissions. Doubling feces marginally increased foliar chemical quality by increasing %N and decreasing C:N. Treatments did not influence CH4 flux. In short, feces removal created sites poorer in nutrients, with reduced root growth, graminoid nutrient uptake,more »and productivity. While goose feces alone did not create dramatic changes in nutrient cycling in western Alaska, they do appear to be an important source of nutrients for grazed areas and to contribute to greenhouse gas exchange as their removal increased emissions of CO2 and N2O to the atmosphere.« less
  3. Abstract Background

    Caribou and reindeer across the Arctic spend more than two thirds of their lives moving in snow. Yet snow-specific mechanisms driving their winter ecology and potentially influencing herd health and movement patterns are not well known. Integrative research coupling snow and wildlife sciences using observations, models, and wildlife tracking technologies can help fill this knowledge void.


    Here, we quantified the effects of snow depth on caribou winter range selection and movement. We used location data of Central Arctic Herd (CAH) caribou in Arctic Alaska collected from 2014 to 2020 and spatially distributed and temporally evolving snow depth data produced by SnowModel. These landscape-scale (90 m), daily snow depth data reproduced the observed spatial snow-depth variability across typical areal extents occupied by a wintering caribou during a 24-h period.


    We found that fall snow depths encountered by the herd north of the Brooks Range exerted a strong influence on selection of two distinct winter range locations. In winters with relatively shallow fall snow depth (2016/17, 2018/19, and 2019/20), the majority of the CAH wintered on the tundra north of the Brooks Range mountains. In contrast, during the winters with relatively deep fall snow depth (2014/15, 2015/16, and 2017/18), the majority ofmore »the CAH caribou wintered in the mountainous boreal forest south of the Brooks Range. Long-term (19 winters; 2001–2020) monitoring of CAH caribou winter distributions confirmed this relationship. Additionally, snow depth affected movement and selection differently within these two habitats: in the mountainous boreal forest, caribou avoided areas with deeper snow, but when on the tundra, snow depth did not trigger significant deep-snow avoidance. In both wintering habitats, CAH caribou selected areas with higher lichen abundance, and they moved significantly slower when encountering deeper snow.


    In general, our findings indicate that regional-scale selection of winter range is influenced by snow depth at or prior to fall migration. During winter, daily decision-making within the winter range is driven largely by snow depth. This integrative approach of coupling snow and wildlife observations with snow-evolution and caribou-movement modeling to quantify the multi-facetted effects of snow on wildlife ecology is applicable to caribou and reindeer herds throughout the Arctic.

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  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 11, 2023