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Title: Snowmelt Timing Regulates Community Composition, Phenology, and Physiological Performance of Alpine Plants

Abstract

The spatial patterning of alpine plant communities is strongly influenced by the variation in physical factors such as temperature and moisture, which are strongly affected by snow depth and snowmelt patterns. Earlier snowmelt timing and greater soil-moisture limitations may favor wide-ranging species adapted to a broader set of ecohydrological conditions than alpine-restricted species. We asked how plant community composition, phenology, plant water relations, and photosynthetic gas exchange of alpine-restricted and wide-ranging species differ in their responses to a ca. 40-day snowmelt gradient in the Colorado Rocky Mountains ( Lewisia pygmaea, Sibbaldia procumbens, and Hymenoxys grandiflora were alpine-restricted and Artemisia scopulorum, Carex rupestris, and Geum rossii were wide-ranging species). As hypothesized, species richness and foliar cover increased with earlier snowmelt, due to a greater abundance of wide-ranging species present in earlier melting plots. Flowering initiation occurred earlier with earlier snowmelt for 12 out of 19 species analyzed, while flowering duration was shortened with later snowmelt for six species (all but one were wide-ranging species). We observed >50% declines in net photosynthesis from July to September as soil moisture and plant water potentials declined. Early-season stomatal conductance was higher in wide-ranging species, indicating a more competitive strategy for water acquisition when soilmore » moisture is high. Even so, there were no associated differences in photosynthesis or transpiration, suggesting no strong differences between these groups in physiology. Our findings reveal that plant species with different ranges (alpine-restricted vs. wide-ranging) could have differential phenological and physiological responses to snowmelt timing and associated soil moisture dry-down, and that alpine-restricted species’ performance is more sensitive to snowmelt. As a result, alpine-restricted species may serve as better indicator species than their wide-ranging heterospecifics. Overall, alpine community composition and peak % cover are strongly structured by spatio-temporal patterns in snowmelt timing. Thus, near-term, community-wide changes (or variation) in phenology and physiology in response to shifts in snowmelt timing or rates of soil dry down are likely to be contingent on the legacy of past climate on community structure.« less

Authors:
; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
OSTI Identifier:
1462281
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1567128
Grant/Contract Number:  
[AC02-05CH11231]
Resource Type:
Published Article
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Plant Science
Additional Journal Information:
[Journal Name: Frontiers in Plant Science Journal Volume: 9]; Journal ID: ISSN 1664-462X
Publisher:
Frontiers Research Foundation
Country of Publication:
Switzerland
Language:
English
Subject:
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; distribution; elevation; flowering; Niwot Ridge; photosynthesis; snowmelt gradient; spatio-temporal dynamics; water relations

Citation Formats

Winkler, Daniel E., Butz, Ramona J., Germino, Matthew J., Reinhardt, Keith, and Kueppers, Lara M. Snowmelt Timing Regulates Community Composition, Phenology, and Physiological Performance of Alpine Plants. Switzerland: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.3389/fpls.2018.01140.
Winkler, Daniel E., Butz, Ramona J., Germino, Matthew J., Reinhardt, Keith, & Kueppers, Lara M. Snowmelt Timing Regulates Community Composition, Phenology, and Physiological Performance of Alpine Plants. Switzerland. doi:10.3389/fpls.2018.01140.
Winkler, Daniel E., Butz, Ramona J., Germino, Matthew J., Reinhardt, Keith, and Kueppers, Lara M. Tue . "Snowmelt Timing Regulates Community Composition, Phenology, and Physiological Performance of Alpine Plants". Switzerland. doi:10.3389/fpls.2018.01140.
@article{osti_1462281,
title = {Snowmelt Timing Regulates Community Composition, Phenology, and Physiological Performance of Alpine Plants},
author = {Winkler, Daniel E. and Butz, Ramona J. and Germino, Matthew J. and Reinhardt, Keith and Kueppers, Lara M.},
abstractNote = {The spatial patterning of alpine plant communities is strongly influenced by the variation in physical factors such as temperature and moisture, which are strongly affected by snow depth and snowmelt patterns. Earlier snowmelt timing and greater soil-moisture limitations may favor wide-ranging species adapted to a broader set of ecohydrological conditions than alpine-restricted species. We asked how plant community composition, phenology, plant water relations, and photosynthetic gas exchange of alpine-restricted and wide-ranging species differ in their responses to a ca. 40-day snowmelt gradient in the Colorado Rocky Mountains (Lewisia pygmaea, Sibbaldia procumbens, and Hymenoxys grandiflora were alpine-restricted and Artemisia scopulorum, Carex rupestris, and Geum rossii were wide-ranging species). As hypothesized, species richness and foliar cover increased with earlier snowmelt, due to a greater abundance of wide-ranging species present in earlier melting plots. Flowering initiation occurred earlier with earlier snowmelt for 12 out of 19 species analyzed, while flowering duration was shortened with later snowmelt for six species (all but one were wide-ranging species). We observed >50% declines in net photosynthesis from July to September as soil moisture and plant water potentials declined. Early-season stomatal conductance was higher in wide-ranging species, indicating a more competitive strategy for water acquisition when soil moisture is high. Even so, there were no associated differences in photosynthesis or transpiration, suggesting no strong differences between these groups in physiology. Our findings reveal that plant species with different ranges (alpine-restricted vs. wide-ranging) could have differential phenological and physiological responses to snowmelt timing and associated soil moisture dry-down, and that alpine-restricted species’ performance is more sensitive to snowmelt. As a result, alpine-restricted species may serve as better indicator species than their wide-ranging heterospecifics. Overall, alpine community composition and peak % cover are strongly structured by spatio-temporal patterns in snowmelt timing. Thus, near-term, community-wide changes (or variation) in phenology and physiology in response to shifts in snowmelt timing or rates of soil dry down are likely to be contingent on the legacy of past climate on community structure.},
doi = {10.3389/fpls.2018.01140},
journal = {Frontiers in Plant Science},
number = ,
volume = [9],
place = {Switzerland},
year = {2018},
month = {7}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record
DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2018.01140

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