Earlier snowmelt and warming lead to earlier but not necessarily more plant growth

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New leaves of Vaccinium vitis-idaea inside a warming chamber. This species expands its leaves earlier when snow is melted early. Photo credit: C. Livensperger.

In the Arctic, rapid warming due to climate change has led to earlier springs and increased plant production at a landscape scale. However, individual species in the tundra may respond differently to growth cues like timing of snowmelt and temperature. While many tundra species expand their leaves earlier due to early snowmelt and warming, this does not always lead to increased production. In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS, Livensperger et al. found that early growing species such as cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum) increased production under early snowmelt and warmed conditions, while later growing species did not. Early onset of the growing season may favor these early growing species.

Reference List

Carolyn Livensperger, Heidi Steltzer, Anthony Darrouzet-Nardi, Patrick F. Sullivan, Matthew Wallenstein, Michael N. Weintraub, 2016, 'Earlier snowmelt and warming lead to earlier but not necessarily more plant growth', AoB Plants, vol. 8, p. plw021 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plw021