Isla H. Myers-Smith's research while affiliated with The University of Edinburgh and other places

Publications (137)

Article
Full-text available
Arctic climate change is leading to an advance of plant phenology (the timing of life history events) with uncertain impacts on tundra ecosystems. Although the lengthening of the growing season is thought to lead to increased plant growth, we have few studies of how plant phenology change is altering tundra plant productivity. Here, we test the cor...
Preprint
1.Tundra soils are one of the world’s largest organic carbon stores, yet this carbon is vulnerable to accelerated decomposition as climate warming progresses. We currently know very little about landscape-scale controls of litter decomposition in tundra ecosystems, which hinders our understanding of the global carbon cycle. 2.Here, we examined how...
Article
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Research in global change ecology relies heavily on global climatic grids derived from estimates of air temperature in open areas at around 2 m above the ground. These climatic grids do not reflect conditions below vegetation canopies and near the ground surface, where critical ecosystem functions occur and most terrestrial species reside. Here, we...
Article
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Foundation species have disproportionately large impacts on ecosystem structure and function. As a result, future changes to their distribution may be important determinants of ecosystem carbon (C) cycling in a warmer world. We assessed the role of a foundation tussock sedge ( Eriophorum vaginatum ) as a climatically vulnerable C stock using field...
Preprint
Full-text available
Arctic climate change is leading to an advance of plant phenology (the timing of life history events) with uncertain impacts on tundra ecosystems. Although the lengthening of the growing season is thought to lead to increased plant growth, we have few studies of how plant phenology change is altering tundra plant productivity. Here, we test the cor...
Article
Full-text available
Global warming has pronounced effects on tundra vegetation, and rising mean temperatures increase plant growth potential across the Arctic biome. Herbivores may counteract the warming impacts by reducing plant growth, but the strength of this effect may depend on prevailing regional climatic conditions. To study how ungulates interact with temperat...
Article
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Snow is an important driver of ecosystem processes in cold biomes. Snow accumulation determines ground temperature, light conditions, and moisture availability during winter. It also affects the growing season’s start and end, and plant access to moisture and nutrients. Here, we review the current knowledge of the snow cover’s role for vegetation,...
Article
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Snow is an important driver of ecosystem processes in cold biomes. Snow accumulation determines ground temperature, light conditions and moisture availability during winter. It also affects the growing season’s start and end, and plant access to moisture and nutrients. Here, we review the current knowledge of the snow cover’s role for vegetation, p...
Article
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Species turnover is ubiquitous. However, it remains unknown whether certain types of species are consistently gained or lost across different habitats. Here, we analysed the trajectories of 1827 plant species over time intervals of up to 78years at 141sites across mountain summits, forests, and lowland grasslands in Europe. We found, albeit with...
Article
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Tundra vegetation productivity and composition are responding rapidly to climatic changes in the Arctic. These changes can, in turn, mitigate or amplify permafrost thaw. In this Review, we synthesize remotely sensed and field-observed vegetation change across the tundra biome, and outline how these shifts could influence permafrost thaw. Permafrost...
Article
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Rising temperatures caused by global warming are affecting the distributions of many plant and animal species across the world. This can lead to structural changes in entire ecosystems, and serious, persistent environmental consequences. However, many of these changes occur in vast and poorly accessible biomes and involve myriad species. As a conse...
Preprint
Global change has altered biodiversity and impacted ecosystem functions and services around the planet. Understanding the effects of anthropogenic drivers like human use and climate change on biodiversity change has become a key challenge for science and policy. However, our knowledge of biodiversity change is limited by the available data and thei...
Article
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Non‐forest ecosystems, dominated by shrubs, grasses and herbaceous plants, provide ecosystem services including carbon sequestration and forage for grazing, and are highly sensitive to climatic changes. Yet these ecosystems are poorly represented in remotely sensed biomass products and are undersampled by in situ monitoring. Current global change t...
Article
Full-text available
Rapid climate warming is altering Arctic and alpine tundra ecosystem structure and function, including shifts in plant phenology. While the advancement of green up and flowering are well-documented, it remains unclear whether all phenophases, particularly those later in the season, will shift in unison or respond divergently to warming. Here, we pr...
Article
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Observations of changes in phenology have provided some of the strongest signals of the effects of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems. The International Tundra Experiment (ITEX), initiated in the early 1990s, established a common protocol to measure plant phenology in tundra study areas across the globe. Today, this valuable collection of phe...
Article
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Vegetation composition shifts, and in particular, shrub expansion across the Arctic tundra are some of the most important and widely observed responses of high-latitude ecosystems to rapid climate warming. These changes in vegetation potentially alter ecosystem carbon balances by affecting a complex set of soil–plant–atmosphere interactions. In thi...
Preprint
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Research in environmental science relies heavily on global climatic grids derived from estimates of air temperature at around 2 meter above ground1-3. These climatic grids however fail to reflect conditions near and below the soil surface, where critical ecosystem functions such as soil carbon storage are controlled and most biodiversity resides4-8...
Article
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Understanding and predicting large-scale ecological responses to global environmental change requires comparative studies across geographic scales with coordinated efforts and standardized methodologies. We designed, applied and assessed standardized protocols to measure tundra herbivory at three spatial scales: plot, site (habitat), and study area...
Preprint
The direction and magnitude of long-term changes in local plant species richness are highly variable among studies, while species turnover is ubiquitous. However, it is unknown whether the nature of species turnover is idiosyncratic or whether certain types of species are consistently gained or lost across different habitats. To address this questi...
Article
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• An accumulating number of studies are reporting severe insect declines. These studies aim to quantify temporal changes in invertebrate populations and community composition and attribute them to anthropogenic drivers. • Seibold et al. 2019 (Nature, 574, 671–674) analysed arthropod biomass, abundance and species richness from forest and grassland...
Article
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Soils are warming as air temperatures rise across the Arctic and Boreal region concurrent with the expansion of tall-statured shrubs and trees in the tundra. Changes in vegetation structure and function are expected to alter soil thermal regimes, thereby modifying climate feedbacks related to permafrost thaw and carbon cycling. However, current und...
Article
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Soils are warming as air temperatures rise across the Arctic and Boreal region concurrent with the expansion of tall-statured shrubs and trees in the tundra. Changes in vegetation structure and function are expected to alter soil thermal regimes, thereby modifying climate feedbacks related to permafrost thaw and carbon cycling. However, current und...
Article
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Arctic sea ice extent (SIE) is declining at an accelerating rate with a wide range of ecological consequences. However, determining sea ice effects on tundra vegetation remains a challenge. In this study, we examined the universality or lack thereof in tundra shrub growth responses to changes in SIE and summer climate across the Pan-Arctic, taking...
Poster
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3rd place at ArcticNet 2020 poster contest. Arctic climate change is leading to an advance of plant phenology (the timing of life events) with unknown effects on tundra ecosystems. Accurate earth-system models depend on our understanding of plant growth-climate relationships and ecosystem-climate feedbacks. Despite underpinning global models, the...
Article
Full-text available
Data across scales are required to monitor ecosystem responses to rapid warming in the Arctic and to interpret tundra greening trends. Here, we tested the correspondence among satellite- and drone-derived seasonal change in tundra greenness to identify optimal spatial scales for vegetation monitoring on Qikiqtaruk - Herschel Island in the Yukon Ter...
Article
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The majority of variation in six traits critical to the growth, survival and reproduction of plant species is thought to be organised along just two dimensions, corresponding to strategies of plant size and resource acquisition. However, it is unknown whether global plant trait rela- tionships extend to climatic extremes, and if these interspecific...
Article
Full-text available
Arctic landscapes are changing rapidly in response to warming, but future predictions are hindered by difficulties in scaling ecological relationships from plots to biomes. Unmanned aerial systems (hereafter 'drones') are increasingly used to observe Arctic ecosystems over broader extents than can be measured using ground-based approaches and are f...
Article
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Current analyses and predictions of spatially‐explicit patterns and processes in ecology most often rely on climate data interpolated from standardized weather stations. This interpolated climate data represents long‐term average thermal conditions at coarse spatial resolutions only. Hence, many climate‐forcing factors that operate at fine spatiote...
Preprint
An accumulating number of studies are reporting severe biomass, abundance and/or species richness declines of insects (Hallmann et al., 2017; Lister & Garcia, 2018; Seibold et al., 2019; Sánchez-Bayo & Wyckhuys, 2019). Collectively these studies aim to quantify the net change in invertebrate populations and/or community composition over time and to...
Article
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Arctic warming can influence tundra ecosystem function with consequences for climate feedbacks, wildlife and human communities. Yet ecological change across the Arctic tundra biome remains poorly quantified due to field measurement limitations and reliance on coarse-resolution satellite data. Here, we assess decadal changes in Arctic tundra greenne...
Article
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The Earth’s biota is changing over time in complex ways. A critical challenge is to test whether specific biomes, taxa or types of species benefit or suffer in a time of accelerating global change. We analysed nearly 10,000 abundance time series from over 2000 vertebrate species part of the Living Planet Database. We integrated abundance data with...
Preprint
Data across scales are required to monitor ecosystem responses to rapid warming in the Arctic and to interpret tundra greening trends. Here, we tested the correspondence among satellite- and drone-derived seasonal change in tundra greenness to identify optimal spatial scales for vegetation monitoring on Qikiqtaruk - Herschel Island in the Yukon Ter...
Preprint
Full-text available
Non-forest ecosystems, dominated by shrubs, grasses and herbaceous plants, provide ecosystem services including carbon sequestration and forage for grazing, yet are highly sensitive to climatic changes. Yet these ecosystems are poorly represented in remotely-sensed biomass products and are undersampled by in-situ monitoring. Current global change t...
Article
Global biodiversity assessments have highlighted land-use change as a key driver of biodiversity change. However, there is little empirical evidence of how habitat transformations such as forest loss and gain are reshaping biodiversity over time. We quantified how change in forest cover has influenced temporal shifts in populations and ecological a...
Preprint
Full-text available
The Earth’s biota is changing over time in complex ways. A critical challenge is to test whether specific biomes, taxa or types of species benefit or suffer in a time of accelerating global change. We analysed nearly 10 000 abundance time series from over 2000 vertebrate species part of the Living Planet Database. We integrated abundance data with...
Article
Full-text available
The majority of variation in six traits critical to the growth, survival and reproduction of plant species is thought to be organised along just two dimensions, corresponding to strategies of plant size and resource acquisition. However, it is unknown whether global plant trait relationships extend to climatic extremes, and if these interspecific r...
Article
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Abstract Climate change and other anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity change are unequally distributed across the world. Overlap in the distributions of different drivers have important implications for biodiversity change attribution and the potential for interactive effects. However, the spatial relationships among different drivers and whether...
Article
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Biomes worldwide are shifting with global change. Biomes whose extents are limited by temperature or precipitation, such as the tundra and savanna, may be particularly strongly affected by climate change. While woody plant encroachment is prevalent across both biomes, its relationship to temperature and precipitation change remains unknown. Here, w...
Article
As the Arctic warms, vegetation is responding, and satellite measures indicate widespread greening at high latitudes. This ‘greening of the Arctic’ is among the world’s most important large-scale ecological responses to global climate change. However, a consensus is emerging that the underlying causes and future dynamics of so-called Arctic greenin...
Article
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Plant traits—the morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics of plants—determine how plants respond to environmental factors, affect other trophic levels, and influence ecosystem properties and their benefits and detriments to people. Plant trait data thus represent the basis for a vast area of research sp...
Article
Human activities are fundamentally altering biodiversity. Projections of declines at the global scale are contrasted by highly variable trends at local scales, suggesting that biodiversity change may be spatially structured. Here, we examined spatial variation in species richness and composition change using more than 50,000 biodiversity time serie...
Article
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Permafrost landscapes are changing around the Arctic in response to climate warming, with coastal erosion being one of the most prominent and hazardous features. Using drone platforms, satellite images, and historic aerial photographs, we observed the rapid retreat of a permafrost coastline on Qikiqtaruk – Herschel Island, Yukon Territory, in the C...
Article
Although evidence suggests that humans have elevated global extinction rates and lowered global species richness, species richness at scales smaller than the globe can increase, decrease or remain the same. However, the role of spatial scale is rarely considered as a modifier in driving how richness change unfolds. We first observed richness change...
Article
The Arctic is undergoing dramatic environmental change with rapidly rising surface temperatures, accelerating sea‐ice decline and changing snow regimes, all of which influence tundra plant phenology. Despite these changes, no globally consistent direction of trends in spring phenology has been reported across the Arctic. While spring has advanced a...
Article
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In the version of this Article originally published, the following sentence was missing from the Acknowledgements: “This work was supported by the Norwegian Research Council SnoEco project, grant number 230970”. This text has now been added.
Article
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The Arctic tundra is warming rapidly, yet the exact mechanisms linking warming and observed ecological changes are often unclear. Understanding mechanisms of change requires long‐term monitoring of multiple ecological parameters. Here, we present the findings of a collaboration between government scientists, local people, park rangers, and academic...
Article
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Species interactions have long been predicted to increase in intensity toward the tropics and low elevations because of gradients in climate, productivity, or biodiversity. Despite their importance for understanding global ecological and evolutionary processes, plant-animal interaction gradients are particularly difficult to test systematically acr...
Preprint
The “greening of the Arctic” is among the world’s most significant large scale ecological responses to global climate change1. The Arctic has warmed at twice the rate of the rest of the planet on average in recent decades2 and satellite-derived vegetation indices have indicated widespread increases in productivity (termed “greening”) at high latitu...
Article
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Aim Plant functional groups are widely used in community ecology and earth system modelling to describe trait variation within and across plant communities. However, this approach rests on the assumption that functional groups explain a large proportion of trait variation among species. We test whether four commonly used plant functional groups rep...
Article
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Advancing phenology is one of the most visible effects of climate change on plant communities, and has been especially pronounced in temperature-limited tundra ecosystems. However, phenological responses have been shown to differ greatly between species, with some species shifting phenology more than others. We analysed a database of 42,689 tundra...
Article
Changes in Arctic vegetation can have important implications for trophic interactions and ecosystem functioning leading to climate feedbacks. Plot-based vegetation surveys provide detailed insight into vegetation changes at sites around the Arctic and improve our ability to predict the impacts of environmental change on tundra ecosystems. Here, we...
Article
Full-text available
Permafrost landscapes are changing around the Arctic in response to climate warming, with coastal erosion being one of the most prominent and hazardous features. Using drone platforms, satellite images and historic aerial photos, we observed the rapid retreat of a permafrost coastline on Qikiqtaruk–Herschel Island, Yukon Territory, in the Canadian...
Article
Rapid technological advances have dramatically increased affordability and accessibility of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and associated sensors. Compact multispectral drone sensors capture high-resolution imagery in visible and near-infrared parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, allowing for the calculation of vegetation indices, such as the no...
Preprint
Full-text available
Global assessments have highlighted land-use change as a key driver of biodiversity change. However, we lack real-world global-scale estimates of how habitat transformations such as forest loss and gain are reshaping biodiversity over time. Here, we quantify the influence of 150 years of forest cover change on populations and ecological assemblages...
Article
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Plant functional traits directly affect ecosystem functions. At the species level, trait combinations depend on trade-offs representing different ecological strategies, but at the community level trait combinations are expected to be decoupled from these trade-offs because different strategies can facilitate co-existence within communities. A key r...
Article
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Motivation: The Tundra Trait Team (TTT) database includes field‐based measurements of key traits related to plant form and function at multiple sites across the tundra biome. This dataset can be used to address theoretical questions about plant strategy and trade‐offs, trait–environment relationships and environmental filtering, and trait variation...
Article
In the rapidly warming tundra biome, plant traits provide an essential link between ongoing vegetation change and feedbacks to key ecosystem functions. However, only recently have comprehensive trait data been compiled for tundra species and sites, allowing us to assess key elements of functional responses to global change. In this review, we summa...
Article
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Species in cold-limited biomes are expected to expand their distribution ranges in response to climate warming. For plants, range shifts can only occur via successful recruitment beyond their current distribution limit. However, many environmental and ecological filters can act upon recruitment and establishment, thereby potentially limiting the ex...