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Lecture 5

GEG3107 Lecture 5: Lecture 5

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Antoni Lewkowicz

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Terrestrial Ecosystems in the Polar Regions - Focus on the Arctic, there isn’t much going on in Antarctica Intro to Ecosystems and Trophic Levels: - Sun → Producers (plants, algae) → Primary consumers (lemming) → Secondary consumers (Arctic fox) → Tertiary consumers (Arctic wolf)  All die and decompose & return nutrients to plants - In the arctic there is a limited number of species in each trophic level, however the number of trophic levels is fairly similar to the rest of the globe (4-5 levels) - Polar bears are a part of the marine ecosystem (do not eat while on land) Environmental Controls on Plants: - There are 8 aspects that plants must cope with  Low winter temperatures (least important – cold is cold)  Low summer temperatures (Esp. in Antarctica) – large role  Short summers (length of time for growth and reproduction) - In many parts of the arctic the snow free period is only 2 months  Strong winds (snow accumulation, cools air, drying effect) - Encourages plants to ‘stay low’  Long photoperiods in summer - Above arctic circle = 24h of sunlight in summer  Low/no light in the winter  Limited nutrients (esp. nitrogen) - Low recycling of nutrients (buildup of biomass [peat] rather than decomposition)  Low precipitations (arid or semi-arid conditions) 50-100 mm - Plant adaptations:  Arctic ecosystems are relatively young and may have developed in the last 3 million years  May have originated from high altitude areas (have been around longer) - As the climate cooled they migrated to the arctic  Plants have a number of adaptations, but they are not exclusive to the arctic  Sun tracking keeps the reproductive parts warm (parabolic flower concentrates heat)  Adaptations against dryness (leathery and/or hairy leaves)  Cushion/dome shape helps reduce water loss and wind damage (aerodynamic), and they maintain a warm microclimate (up to 25° warmer)  ITEX (International Tundra Experiment): Studying the potential changes on vegetation due to climate change (using Plexiglas chambers to raise local temp)  Prostate shrubs: Grow across the ground rather than upwards - Protects from wind, and preserves warmth  Pre-form flower buds, maximizes the time available for seed production - Asexual reproduction is common (can’t guarantee the success/completion of seeds within the growing season), and annual plants are rare  Perennials have an extensive, shallow root system & a tap root that stores food  Wind pollination (vs. insect pollination) increases as you move north  Longevity, lichens may live for thousands of years (can be used for dating)  Opportunistic seed production (do not produce a seed every year)  Frost resistance, can snow a even in the middle of the summer  Grow at lower temperatures and their optimum photosynthetic rate at lower temperatures (allows them to maximize the growing season) Spatial variation in vegetation: - Arctic vegetation is heterogeneous and the local conditions can vary significantly - Types of vegetation can be linked to summer temperatures (bioclimatic subzone) and soil moisture - The Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map was produced through an international effort using field observation and remote sensing - Bioclimate subzone is based on the mean July temperatures  Class E is at/under the treeline (10°C) so is uncommon in the tundra  In the brackets is the number of vascular plant species - 5 main divisions:  Graminoid tundra = grassy  B → S generally coldest to warmer, Wetlands can occur anywhere - Map ends at the treeline (quite a small area) - Barrens used to be called polar deserts  Cryptogram = mosses and lichens  Listed form coldest to warmest (except wetlands)  Tussocks are lumps of plants (composted of a mixture of soil and undecomposed vegetation)  There are many small
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