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Arctic snow harbors deadly assassin
Date:6/19/2011

area the dwarf shrub Empetrum hermaphroditum. The team's unexpected finding followed a decision to keep the experiment running longer than was originally planned.

The researchers believe that the findings highlight unforeseen elements that should be factored into future modelling of the impacts of climate change and its effects on vegetation and food-web chains.

Co-author of the report, Johan Olofsson, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Ume University, Sweden, said: "We set out to look at the effects of climate change and the potential of heavier precipitation and snowfall on plants and the processes that influence growth, decomposition and soil nutrients.

"Shrubs are an important part of the arctic vegetation and we did not expect to find a deadly species-to-species effect influenced by this manipulated snow accumulation."

Snow usually protects arctic plants through the long winter period as it maintains a warmer local environment around the overwintering plants and helps them to grow bigger and faster.

During the seven year experiment, the researchers observed steady plant growth under the protection of the snow's insulating blanket. In year six, the fungus spread rapidly, killing the plant and changing the vegetation from a natural carbon sink to a net carbon source.

Co-author of the report, Lars Ericson, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Ume University, Sweden, said: "We discovered some surprising interactions between plants and other organisms in an area that is very important for the world's climate. The results will enable us to have a better understanding of longer term climate change effects and extreme weather events, locally and regionally."


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Contact: Dionne Hamil
dionne.hamil@dur.ac.uk
44-191-334-6078
Durham University
Source:Eurekalert

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