Increased sensitivity to climate change in disturbed ecosystems

Kroel-Dulay, G. and Ransijn, J. and Schmidt, I.K. and Beier, C. and De Angelis, P. and de Dato, G. and Dukes, J.S. and Emmett, B. and Estiarte, M. and Garadnai, J. and Kongstad, J. and Kovacs-Lang, E. and Larsen, K.L. and Liberati, D. and Ogaya, R. and Riis-Nielsen, T. and Smith, A. and Sowerby, A. and Tietma, A. and Penuelas, J. (2015) Increased sensitivity to climate change in disturbed ecosystems. Nature Communication, 6 (6682). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7682

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Human domination of the biosphere includes changes to disturbance regimes, which push many ecosystems towards early-successional states. Ecological theory predicts that early-successional ecosystems are more sensitive to perturbations than mature systems, but little evidence supports this relationship for the perturbation of climate change. Here we show that vegetation (abundance, species richness and species composition) across seven European shrublands is quite resistant to moderate experimental warming and drought, and responsiveness is associated with the dynamic state of the ecosystem, with recently disturbed sites responding to treatments. Furthermore, most of these responses are not rapid (2�5 years) but emerge over a longer term (7�14 years). These results suggest that successional state influences the sensitivity of ecosystems to climate change, and that ecosystems recovering from disturbances may be sensitive to even modest climatic changes. A research bias towards undisturbed ecosystems might thus lead to an underestimation of the impacts of climate change.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Research Publications
Departments: College of Natural Sciences > School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2015 02:53
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2015 01:12
ISSN: 2041-1723
URI: http://e.bangor.ac.uk/id/eprint/3564
Identification Number: DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7682
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
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