Publication Date


First Advisor

Robert Hollister


The Arctic is warming more than twice the rate of the global average. Plant responses to warming have been documented in northern Alaska for decades and have shown that graminoids, deciduous shrubs, and evergreen shrubs are increasing in cover while forbs are decreasing in cover or remaining constant depending on the location. To better understand why growth forms are responding differently, nine functional traits were measured for 13 species at three sites in northern Alaska. Canonical correspondence analysis reveals that species increasing in cover are associated with high photosynthetic capacity and plant height. Species decreasing in cover are associated with leaf dry matter content. These traits closely correlate with relative growth rate, suggesting that more efficient species will dominate the landscape over time. These shifts in community level trait values can affect ecosystem processes such as carbon cycling and have the potential to affect the Arctic’s carbon budget.

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