Kristine Birkeli

and 4 more

The coastal heathlands of North-west Europe are valuable cultural landscapes, created and maintained over millennia by a land-use regime involving burning and grazing. These heathlands are now critically threatened throughout their range by land-use change and, increasingly, climatic changes. The climatic change impacts are complex, as the coastal heathland regions are experiencing increased temperature and precipitation, but also increased frequency and severity of extreme events, such as drought. Previous studies reveal that established heathland vegetation, including Calluna, are vulnerable to drought, but also that these vulnerabilities vary throughout the range, and with successional stage after fire. Recruitment from seed is an important regeneration strategy for Calluna heathland vegetation after burning, and our study is the first to assess how the seed germination and early seedling growth of Calluna respond to drought. We will do this in a lab germination experiment, where we will expose Calluna seeds to five different drought treatments, from -0.25 MPa to -1.7 MPa, and measure germination, and record germination percentage, germination rates, and seedling growth, below-ground allocation, and functional traits (Specific Leaf Area, Specific Root Length). To allow assessment of variation in drought responses due to geographic origin, successional stage, and the maternal plants’ drought exposure, we will conduct this experiment on seeds from 540 Calluna plants sampled from across three drought treatments (control, 50%, and 90% coverage), in three successional stages after fire (pioneer, building, mature), in two regions (60N, 65N), using a factorial design.

Sylvia Haider

and 57 more

Climate change and other global change drivers threaten plant diversity in mountains worldwide. A widely documented response to such environmental modifications is for plant species to change their elevational ranges. Range shifts are often idiosyncratic and difficult to generalize, partly due to variation in sampling methods. There is thus a need for a standardized monitoring strategy that can be applied across mountain regions to assess distribution changes and community turnover of native and non-native plant species over space and time. Here, we present a conceptually intuitive and standardized protocol developed by the Mountain Invasion Research Network (MIREN) to systematically quantify global patterns of native and non-native species distributions along elevation gradients and shifts arising from interactive effects of climate change and human disturbance. Usually repeated every five years, surveys consist of 20 sample sites located at equal elevation increments along three replicate roads per sampling region. At each site, three plots extend from the side of a mountain road into surrounding natural vegetation. The protocol has been successfully used in 18 regions worldwide from 2007 to present. Analyses of one point in time already generated some salient results, and revealed region-specific elevational patterns of native plant species richness, but a globally consistent elevational decline in non-native species richness. Non-native plants were also more abundant directly adjacent to road edges, suggesting that disturbed roadsides serve as a vector for invasions into mountains. From the upcoming analyses of time series even more exciting results especially about range shifts can be expected. Implementing the protocol in more mountain regions globally would help to generate a more complete picture of how global change alters species distributions. This would inform conservation policy in mountain ecosystems, where some conservation policies remain poorly implemented.