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Herbivore-shrub interactions influence ecosystem respiration and BVOC composition in the subarctic

Brachmann, C. G., T. Vowles, R. Rinnan, M. P. Björkman, A. Ekberg and R. G. Björk. 2023.


Arctic ecosystems are warming nearly four times faster than the global average which is resulting in plant community shifts and subsequent changes in biogeochemical processes such as gaseous fluxes. Additionally, herbivores shape plant communities and thereby alter the magnitude and composition of ecosystem respiration and BVOC emissions. Here we determine the effect of large mammalian herbivores on ecosystem respiration and BVOC emissions in two southern and two northern sites in Sweden, encompassing mountain birch (LOMB) and shrub heath (LORI) communities in the south and low-herb meadow (RIGA) and shrub heath (RIRI) communities in the north. Herbivory significantly decreased ecosystem respiration at RIGA and altered the BVOC composition between sites. However, plant community composition had a larger effect on ecosystem respiration as RIGA had 35% higher emissions than the next highest emitting site (LOMB). Additionally, LOMB had the highest emissions of terpenes with the northern sites having significantly lower emissions. Differences between sites were primarily due to differences in exclosure effects, soil temperature and prevalence of different shrub growth forms. Our results suggest that herbivory has a significant effect on trace gas fluxes in a productive meadow community and differences between communities may be driven by differences in shrub composition.