Long-term experimental warming and nutrient additions increase productivity in tall deciduous shrub tundra

Jennie Demarco, Michelle C. MacK, M. Syndonia Bret-Harte, Mark Burton, Gaius R. Shaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Warming Arctic temperatures can drive changes in vegetation structure and function directly by stimulating plant growth or indirectly by stimulating microbial decomposition of organic matter and releasing more nutrients for plant uptake and growth. The arctic biome is currently increasing in deciduous shrub cover and this increase is expected to continue with climate warming. However, little is known how current deciduous shrub communities will respond to future climate induced warming and nutrient increase. We examined the plant and ecosystem response to a long-term (18 years) nutrient addition and warming experiment in an Alaskan arctic tall deciduous shrub tundra ecosystem to understand controls over plant productivity and carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) storage in shrub tundra ecosystems. In addition, we used a meta-analysis approach to compare the treatment effect size for aboveground biomass among seven long-term studies conducted across multiple plant community types within the Arctic. We found that biomass, productivity, and aboveground N pools increased with nutrient additions and warming, while species diversity decreased. Both nutrient additions and warming caused the dominant functional group, deciduous shrubs, to increase biomass and proportional C and N allocation to aboveground stems but decreased allocation to belowground stems. For all response variables except soil C and N pools, effects of nutrients plus warming were largest. Soil C and N pools were highly variable and we could not detect any response to the treatments. The biomass response to warming and fertilization in tall deciduous shrub tundra was greater than moist acidic and moist non-acidic tundra and more similar to the biomass response of wet sedge tundra. Our data suggest that in a warmer and more nutrient-rich Arctic, tall deciduous shrub tundra will have greater total deciduous shrub biomass and a higher proportion of woody tissue that has a longer residence time, with a lower proportion of C and N allocated to belowground stems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA72
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 19 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Arctic
  • Carbon pools
  • Climate change
  • Deciduous shrubs
  • Manipulated warming
  • Meta-analysis
  • Nitrogen pools
  • Nutrient additions
  • Tundra

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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