Effects of herbivory on arctic and alpine vegetation
Sammanfattning: The distribution of plant species and functional traits in alpine and arctic environments are determined by abiotic conditions, but also by biotic interactions. In this thesis, I investigate interactions among plants and herbivory effects on plant community composition and plant functional traits in three different regions: Swedish Lapland, Beringia (USA/Russia) and Finnmark (Norway). Reindeer grazing was found to be extensive in southern Lapland and had limited effects on plant community composition and seedling germination. However, reindeer presence was found to influence plant functional traits, particularly in the subalpine birch forest. Tall herbs were lower and had lower SLA when reindeer were present, while small herbs showed an opposite pattern. The contrasting effects on the two herb groups are probably explained by a competitive release for small herbs when the tall herbs are suppressed by reindeer. Rodents had the largest relative impact on plant community composition in southern Lapland and this is consistent with the study from Finnmark, where rodents heavily affected dwarf shrubs on predator-free islands. With no predators present, vole densities increased profoundly and almost depleted some dwarf shrub species. These results support the idea that small mammals in arctic and alpine tundra are controlled by predators (i.e. top-down). However, a decrease in the nutritional quality in a sedge after defoliation gives support for the idea that small mammals are regulated by plant quality (i.e. bottom-up). In Beringia, small and large herbivores differed in the relation to plant community composition, since large herbivores were related to species richness and small herbivores were related to plant abundance. Plant functional traits were related only to large herbivores and standing crop of vascular plants.
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