Legacy Effects of Climate Extremes in Alpine Grassland

De Boeck, Hans J.; Hiltbrunner, Erika; Verlinden, Maya; Bassin, Seraina; Zeiter, Michaela (2018). Legacy Effects of Climate Extremes in Alpine Grassland Frontiers in Plant Science, 9(1586) Frontiers Media 10.3389/fpls.2018.01586

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Climate change is particularly apparent in many mountainous regions, with warming rates of more than twice the global average being reported for the European Alps. As a result, the probability of climate extremes has increased and is expected to rise further. In an earlier study, we looked into immediate impacts of experimentally imposed heat waves in alpine grassland, and found that these systems were able to cope with heat as long as enough water was available. However, concomitant drought led to increased stress, and reduced aboveground biomass production and green plant cover. Here, we studied the legacy effects (lag-effects) of the imposed climate extreme to see whether delayed responses occurred and how fast the alpine grassland could rebound from the initial changes. Green cover continued to be suppressed the two following years in communities that had been exposed to the most intense hot drought, while aboveground biomass production had returned to control levels by year 2. The initial lower resistance of the forb fraction in the communities was not compensated by faster recovery later on. This resulted in alpine communities that became (and remained) relatively enriched with graminoids, which resisted the original extreme better. The responses of alpine grassland to heat extremes with or without drought observed in this study resemble those typically found in lowland grassland in the short term. However, alpine grassland exhibited longer legacy effects from an annual perspective, with delayed recovery of aboveground production and persistent changes in community composition. This suggests that once initial resistance thresholds are exceeded, impacts may be longer-lasting in alpine grassland, where recovery is constrained by both the short growing season and difficult seedling establishment.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Resource-efficient agricultural production systems
School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Agriculture


De Boeck, Hans J.;
Hiltbrunner, Erika;
Verlinden, Maya;
Bassin, Seraina and
Zeiter, Michaela


G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Q Science > QK Botany
S Agriculture > SB Plant culture




Frontiers Media




David Zimmer

Date Deposited:

01 Nov 2019 11:21

Last Modified:

01 Nov 2019 11:21

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

biomass, drought, heat wave, mountain, recovery, resistance, stress, warming





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