Long-Term Experimental Warming Affects Tissue C/N Ratios Differently in Three Strongly Chionophilous Alpine Species
Authors: Sylvi M. Sandvik, Wenche Eide, University of Agder, Faculty of Engineering and Science, Kristiansand, Norway, and others
Abstract: Late-melting snowbed communities are occupied by plant specialists exposed to extremely short growing seasons and cold and nutrient-poor soil. The aim of this study is to investigate how plant tissue chemistry in three co-occurring strongly chionophilous snowbed species responds to 10 years of experimental warming using open top chambers (OTCs) to increase temperature by about 1.6°C in the air and 2.6°C in the soil. We harvested shoots from two forbs and leaves from a sedge species in OTCs and control plots, at 1400 meters elevation in the alpine Norway. The plant material was dried and chemical analyses were undertaken. Warming (main effect) increased the carbon concentration and decreased the nitrogen concentration significantly in all three species Cerastium cerastoides (L.) and Epilobium anagallidifolium (Lam.) (both forbs) and Carex lachenalii (Schkuhr) (sedge). Warming affected, however, the ratio between carbon and nitrogen concentration (C/N) differently depending on the species. C/N ratios in both forbs increased while no changes in C/N ratio appeared in the sedge. Differences in C/N ratio responses indicate different adaptability to warming effects and different phenotypic plasticity between the species that may represent a threat to biodiversity in these habitats. Different adaptability of plant species to temperature increases may also threaten the future existence of snowbeds as distinctive alpine habitats.
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