Functional group contributions to carbon fluxes in arctic-alpine ecosystems
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionArctic, Antarctic and Alpine research. 2019, 51 (1), 58-68. 10.1080/15230430.2019.1578163
Ongoing responses to climate change in arctic-alpine ecosystems, including the increasing dominance of deciduous shrubs, involve major shifts in plant functional group composition. Because rates of photosynthesis and respiration and their responses to temperature may vary among plant functional groups, a better understanding of their contributions to carbon fluxes will help improve predictions of how ecosystem changes will affect carbon source-sink relations in globally important tundra regions. We used a sequential harvest method to estimate growing season functional group contributions to net ecosystem exchange (NEE), ecosystem respiration (ER), and gross photosynthesis (GP) in alpine heath-, meadow-, and Salix-dominated shrub communities. We also partitioned ER into aboveground and belowground components in all three communities. Belowground efflux was the dominant component of ER in the heath and meadow communities (63 percent and 88 percent of ER, respectively) but contributed only approximately 40 percent of ER in the shrub community. The dominant functional group in each community contributed most to aboveground exchanges. Estimates for cryptogams were uncertain, but indicated a minor role for bryophytes and lichens in overall exchange. The results of our novel method of partitioning gas-exchange measurements suggest strong differences in the relative proportions of soil versus aboveground respiration and in the contributions of different functional groups in the net carbon exchange of three important arctic-alpine community types, with implications for changes in carbon dynamics as these systems respond to environmental change.