In high-arctic tundra, vegetation is facing severe challenges due to climate-change-induced warming, shifts in seasonality and potentially increased herbivore pressure. We expect shifts in vegetation from moss-dominated to vascular plant-dominated communities, as well as species shifts within these groups. While mosses are a major component of high Arctic vegetation that is subject to climate-induced change, we still lack information on the functions that vegetation types with different moss composition exert in high-arctic ecosystems; i.e. we severely lack studies on how vegetation will mediate effects on below-ground permafrost insulation, with potential consequences on active layer thickness. This Svalbard-based project seeks to develop methods for use in experimental studies, aiming at monitoring vegetation-mediated effects of early snow melt and summer warming, and disturbance, on permafrost insulation. We will seek out dwarf-shrub versus moss-dominated tundra plant communities in locations that cover different local topographical and climatic conditions. Based on previous studies, we expect that these communities will differ in their insulation capacity, yet the extent of these differences, and the potential role mosses possess in insulating permafrost, remain unknown.
Project manager: Simone Lang
Project code: 494 1102019