Beyond arctic and alpine: the influence of winter climate on temperate ecosystems

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  • Winter climate is expected to change under future climate scenarios, yet the majority of winter ecology research is focused in cold-climate ecosystems. In many temperate systems, it is unclear how winter climate relates to biotic responses during the growing season. The objective of this study was to examine how winter weather relates to plant and animal communities in a variety of terrestrial ecosystems ranging from warm deserts to alpine tundra. Specifically, we examined the association between winter weather and plant phenology, plant species richness, consumer abundance, and consumer richness in 11 terrestrial ecosystems associated with the U.S. Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. To varying degrees, winter precipitation and temperature were correlated with all biotic response variables. Bud break was tightly aligned with end of winter temperatures. For half the sites, winter weather was a better predictor of plant species richness than growing season weather. Warmer winters were correlated with lower consumer abundances in both temperate and alpine systems. Our findings suggest winter weather may have a strong influence on biotic activity during the growing season and should be considered in future studies investigating the effects of climate change on both alpine and temperate systems.
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  • Keywords: ecosystem stability, temperate ecosystem, US LTER Network, global change, critical climate periods, winter
  • Keywords: ecosystem stability, temperate ecosystem, US LTER Network, global change, critical climate periods, winter
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  • Ladwig, L. M., Ratajczak, Z. R., Ocheltree, T. W., Hafich, K. A., Churchill, A. C., Frey, S. J., ... & Smith, J. G. (2016). Beyond arctic and alpine: the influence of winter climate on temperate ecosystems. Ecology, 97(2), 372-382. doi:10.1890/15-0153.1
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  • 97
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  • 2
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  • This synthesis project was supported by an LTER Network synthesis grant. We thank researchers at each NSF LTER site for collecting and managing the data. Funding for long-term data collection and management was provided by the National Science Foundation in the form of multiple long-term ecological research grants to the following sites: the Jornada Basin (DEB-1235828), Bonanza Creek (DEB-1026415), H. J. Andrews (DEB-0823380), Konza Prairie, Kellogg Biological Station (DEB-1027253), Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (DEB-1114804), Sevilleta (DEB-0620482), Niwot Ridge (DEB-0823405), Cedar Creek (DEB-0620652 and DEB-1234162), and Harvard Forest. In addition to this funding, Bonanza Creek is co-supported by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (PNWO1-JV11261652-231). H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest research program is co-funded by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station and Oregon State University. Konza Prairie is also supported by the Kansas State University Department of Biology and Nature Conservancy. Kellogg is also supported by Michigan State University AgBioResearch. The Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest is supported by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station. Sevilleta is supported by the University of New Mexico. Niwot Ridge is supported by the University of Colorado Mountain Research Station. The Shortgrass Steppe Long Term Ecological Research group is a partnership between Colorado State University, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, and the U.S. Forest Service Pawnee National Grassland, and we thank D. G. Milchunas and W. K. Lauenroth for providing data. Cedar Creek is supported by the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.
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