Linking Herbivory to Tundra Plant Community Dynamics through the lens of Ecosystem Functional Diversity

Authors: Qin Yu*, George Washington University, Howard Epstein, University of Virginia, Domingo Alcaraz Segura, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Granada, Amanda Armstrong , University of Virginia, Martha Reynolds, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Topics: Polar Regions, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Environmental Science
Keywords: Arctic BON, ecosystem functional diversity, remote sensing, GIS, herbivory
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Forum Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Arctic tundra biome is now experiencing dramatic environmental changes accentuated by summer sea-ice decline, permafrost thaw, and shrub expansion. Contributing to current research effort of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program’s (CBMP), this is research that investigates ecosystem functional diversity in the Arctic. Multi-decadal time-series of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI, a spectral metric of vegetation productivity) shows variations of “greening” and “browning” trends across the Arctic tundra biome. Regional trends in climate plausibly explain large-scale patterns of increasing plant productivity. However, at more local scales, there is a great deal of spatial variability in NDVI trends that likely reflects differences in hydrology and soil conditions, disturbance history, and use by wildlife and humans. Particularly, habitat use by large herbivores, such as reindeer and caribou, has large impacts on vegetation dynamics at local and regional scales, but the role of herbivores in modulating the response of vegetation to warming climate has received little attention. This study investigates regional tundra plant community dynamics within inhabits of different sizes of wild caribou/reindeer herds across the Arctic using MODIS derived ecosystem functional types and associated indices. The Taimyr herd in Russia is one of the largest herds in the world with a population increase from 450,000 in 1975 to about 1 million animals in 2000. The population of the porcupine caribou herd has fluctuated in the past three decades between 100,000 and 180,000. Regions of different herds are associated with ecosystem functional types based on Principal Component Analysis.

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