Plot-scale evidence of tundra vegetation change and links to recent summer warming

Sarah C. Elmendorf, Gregory H.R. Henry, Robert D. Hollister, Robert G. Björk, Noémie Boulanger-Lapointe, Elisabeth J. Cooper, Johannes H.C. Cornelissen, Thomas A. Day, Ellen Dorrepaal, Tatiana G. Elumeeva, Mike Gill, William A. Gould, John Harte, David S. Hik, Annika Hofgaard, David R. Johnson, Jill F. Johnstone, Ingibjörg Svala Jónsdóttir, Janet C. Jorgenson, Kari KlanderudJulia A. Klein, Saewan Koh, Gaku Kudo, Mark Lara, Esther Lévesque, Borgthor Magnússon, Jeremy L. May, Joel A. Mercado-Díaz, Anders Michelsen, Ulf Molau, Isla H. Myers-Smith, Steven F. Oberbauer, Vladimir G. Onipchenko, Christian Rixen, Niels Martin Schmidt, Gaius R. Shaver, Marko J. Spasojevic, Póra Ellen Pórhallsdóttir, Anne Tolvanen, Tiffany Troxler, Craig E. Tweedie, Sandra Villareal, Carl Henrik Wahren, Xanthe Walker, Patrick J. Webber, Jeffrey M. Welker, Sonja Wipf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Temperature is increasing at unprecedented rates across most of the tundra biome. Remote-sensing data indicate that contemporary climate warming has already resulted in increased productivity over much of the Arctic, but plot-based evidence for vegetation transformation is not widespread. We analysed change in tundra vegetation surveyed between 1980 and 2010 in 158 plant communities spread across 46 locations. We found biome-wide trends of increased height of the plant canopy and maximum observed plant height for most vascular growth forms; increased abundance of litter; increased abundance of evergreen, low-growing and tall shrubs; and decreased abundance of bare ground. Intersite comparisons indicated an association between the degree of summer warming and change in vascular plant abundance, with shrubs, forbs and rushes increasing with warming. However, the association was dependent on the climate zone, the moisture regime and the presence of permafrost. Our data provide plot-scale evidence linking changes in vascular plant abundance to local summer warming in widely dispersed tundra locations across the globe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-457
Number of pages5
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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