Plant co-existence patterns and High-Arctic vegetation composition in three common plant communities in north-east Greenland
Arctic regions are expected to experience substantial changes in climate in the coming decades. In order to predict potential changes of Arctic vegetation, it is important to understand the distinct role of life forms of plants and of individual species in relation to plant co-existence patterns. Our aim is to investigate if three common Arctic plant patch types dominated by contrasting life forms (by the dwarf shrubs Salix arctica or Dryas octopetala×intermedia or by mosses) are related (a) to the co-existence of vascular plants and species richness at patch scale and (b) to the floristic composition in three distinct plant communities (Salix snowbed, Dryas heath and fell-field) associated with contrasting abiotic regimes. The study was conducted at Zackenberg, in north-east Greenland. Dryas patches showed a clear negative effect on small-scale plant richness and co-existence in the fell-field. Salix and moss patches showed a similar pattern in all the plant communities, although the number of individuals growing in Salix patches was lower than in moss patches. Salix and mosses in the fell-fields hosted a high number of species in spite of the much less vegetated aspect of this harsh, upper zone. The floristic composition varied between plant communities, but it did not change substantially between patch types within each community. This study provides novel background knowledge of plant co-existence patterns at patch scale and of the structure of contrasting Arctic plant communities, which will help to better assess the potential effects of varying abiotic stress regimes on Arctic vegetation.
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Keywords: Abiotic stress; Arctic vegetation; co-existence patterns; plant community; species richness.
(Published: 25 September 2014)
Citation: Polar Research 2014, 33, 19235, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v33.19235
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Authors retain copyright of their work, with first publication rights granted to the Norwegian Polar Institute.