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  1. Abstract

    In arctic tundra, large and small mammalian herbivores have substantial impacts on the vegetation community and consequently can affect the magnitude of carbon cycling. However, herbivores are often absent from modern carbon cycle models, partly because relatively few field studies focus on herbivore impacts on carbon cycling. Our objectives were to quantify the impact of 21 years of large herbivore and large and small herbivore exclusion on carbon cycling during peak growing season in a dry heath tundra community. When herbivores were excluded, we observed a significantly greater leaf area index as well as greater vascular plant abundance. While we did not observe significant differences in deciduous dwarf shrub abundance across treatments, evergreen dwarf shrub abundance was greater where large and small herbivores were excluded. Both foliose and fruticose lichen abundance were higher in the large herbivore, but not the small and large herbivore exclosures. Net ecosystem exchange (NEE) likewise indicated the highest carbon uptake in the exclosure treatments and lowest uptake in the control (CT), suggesting that herbivory decreased the capacity of dry heath tundra to take up carbon. Moreover, our calculated NEE for average light and temperature conditions for July 2017, when our measurements were taken, indicatedmore »that the tundra was a carbon source in CT, but was a carbon sink in both exclosure treatments, indicating removal of grazing pressure can change the carbon balance of dry heath tundra. Collectively, these findings suggest that herbivore absence can lead to changes in plant community structure of dry heath tundra that in turn can increase its capacity to take up carbon.

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  2. Abstract

    Riverine fluxes of carbon and inorganic nutrients are increasing in virtually all large permafrost-affected rivers, indicating major shifts in Arctic landscapes. However, it is currently difficult to identify what is causing these changes in nutrient processing and flux because most long-term records of Arctic river chemistry are from small, headwater catchments draining <200 km2or from large rivers draining >100,000 km2. The interactions of nutrient sources and sinks across these scales are what ultimately control solute flux to the Arctic Ocean. In this context, we performed spatially-distributed sampling of 120 subcatchments nested within three Arctic watersheds spanning alpine, tundra, and glacial-lake landscapes in Alaska. We found that the dominant spatial scales controlling organic carbon and major nutrient concentrations was 3–30 km2, indicating a continuum of diffuse and discrete sourcing and processing dynamics. These patterns were consistent seasonally, suggesting that relatively fine-scale landscape patches drive solute generation in this region of the Arctic. These network-scale empirical frameworks could guide and benchmark future Earth system models seeking to represent lateral and longitudinal solute transport in rapidly changing Arctic landscapes.

  3. Soil temperatures play an important role in determining the distribution and function of organisms. However, soil temperature is decoupled from air temperature and varies widely in space. Characterizing and predicting soil temperature requires large and expensive networks of data loggers. We developed an open-source soil temperature data logger and created online resources to ensure our design was accessible. We tested data loggers constructed by students, with little prior electronics experience, in the lab, and in the field in Alaska. The do-it-yourself (DIY) data logger was comparably accurate to a commercial system with a mean absolute error of 2% from −20–0 °C and 1% from 0–20 °C. They captured accurate soil temperature data and performed reliably in the field with less than 10% failing in the first year of deployment. The DIY loggers were ~1.7–7 times less expensive than commercial systems. This work has the potential to increase the spatial resolution of soil temperature monitoring and serve as a powerful educational tool. The DIY soil temperature data logger will reduce data collection costs and improve our understanding of species distributions and ecological processes. It also provides an educational resource to enhance STEM, accessibility, inclusivity, and engagement.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  4. Arctic Treeline is the transition from the boreal forest to the treeless tundra and may be determined by growing season temperatures. The physiological mechanisms involved in determining the relationship between the physical and biological environment and the location of treeline are not fully understood. In Northern Alaska, we studied the relationship between temperature and leaf respiration in 36 white spruce ( Picea glauca ) trees, sampling both the upper and lower canopy, to test two research hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that upper canopy leaves, which are more directly coupled to the atmosphere, will experience more challenging environmental conditions and thus have higher respiration rates to facilitate metabolic function. The second hypothesis is that saplings [stems that are 5–10cm DBH (diameter at breast height)] will have higher respiration rates than trees (stems ≥10cm DBH) since saplings represent the transition from seedlings growing in the more favorable aerodynamic boundary layer, to trees which are fully coupled to the atmosphere but of sufficient size to persist. Respiration did not change with canopy position, however respiration at 25°C was 42% higher in saplings compared to trees (3.43±0.19 vs. 2.41±0.14μmolm −2 s −1 ). Furthermore, there were significant differences in the temperature response ofmore »respiration, and seedlings reached their maximum respiration rates at 59°C, more than two degrees higher than trees. Our results demonstrate that the respiratory characteristics of white spruce saplings at treeline impose a significant carbon cost that may contribute to their lack of perseverance beyond treeline. In the absence of thermal acclimation, the rate of leaf respiration could increase by 57% by the end of the century, posing further challenges to the ecology of this massive ecotone.« less