Drivers of C cycling in three arctic-alpine plant communities

Mia Vedel Sørensen, Bente Jessen Graae, Aimee Classen, Brian J. Enquist, Richard Strimbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Recent vegetation changes in arctic-alpine tundra ecosystems may affect several ecosystem processes that regulate microbe and soil functions. Such changes can alter ecosystem carbon (C) cycling with positive feedback to the atmosphere if plant C uptake is less than the amount of soil C released. Here, we examine how differences in plant functional traits, microbial activity, and soil processes within and across Salix-dominated shrub, dwarf shrub–dominated heath, and herb- and cryptogam-dominated meadow communities influence C cycling. We develop a hypothesized framework based on a priori model selection of variation in daytime growing season gross ecosystem photosynthesis (GEP) and above- and belowground respiration. The fluxes were standardized to light and temperature. Gross ecosystem photosynthesis was primarily related to soil moisture and secondarily to plant functional traits and aboveground biomass, and belowground respiration was dependent on the community weighted mean of specific leaf area (SLACWM). Similarly, microbial activity was linked with SLACWM and was highest in meadows, and carbon-degrading microbial activity decreased with vegetation woodiness. These results suggest that shrub expansion may influence summer C cycling differently depending on plant community, as belowground respiration might increase in the heath and decrease in the meadow communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-147
Number of pages20
JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Gross ecosystem photosynthesis
  • enzyme activity
  • plant functional traits
  • respiration
  • shrub expansion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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