Shifting Dominance Within a Montane Vegetation Community: Results of a Climate-Warming Experiment

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Science  10 Feb 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5199, pp. 876-880
DOI: 10.1126/science.267.5199.876


In experimentally heated plots that each span a soil moisture gradient in a Rocky Mountain meadow, aboveground biomass of Artemisia tridentata (a sagebrush) increased in the drier habitat and that of Pentaphylloides floribunda (a shrub cinquefoil) increased in the wetter habitat relative to control plots. In contrast, aboveground forb biomass decreased in the wet and dry habitats of the heated plots. These results, combined with evidence for enhanced sagebrush seedling establishment rates in the heated plots, suggest that the increased warming expected under an atmosphere with a concentration of carbon dioxide twice that of pre-industrial levels could change the dominant vegetation of a widespread meadow habitat.