From the top of the mountain to the top of the world: vegetation change in the tundra

Join us for our roundtable discussion on March 4th with Dr. Anne Bjorkman from he German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

Abstract: Identifying large-scale patterns in functional traits has become a hot topic in community ecology over the past decade, as understanding current biogeographical patterns can help us predict future shifts under climate warming. In the Arctic, where temperatures are warming faster than anywhere else on the planet, shifts in vegetation and associated functional traits can have direct consequences for ecosystem function. For example, increases in shrub cover could affect summer and winter soil temperatures and thus influence the depth of permafrost thaw, while specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf nitrogen concentration can influence decomposition rates, relative growth rates, photosynthetic rates, and carbon fixation, all of which in turn influence carbon cycling and net primary productivity (NPP).

As part of an international synthesis effort based at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (“iDiv” – the German equivalent of NCEAS, or at least we like to think so), we are investigating patterns of functional traits across climate space and over time by combining a circumpolar vegetation database with a large and growing tundra plant trait database. This is very much a work in progress, so I will present some of our work so far and would love to have your feedback!

Anne at her study site

Anne at her study site

A roundtable on roundtables

We have had a few informal discussions here at NCEAS on round-tables and the form/structure that they could take in order to be both engaging and useful. There is a dichotomy apparent, between ‘talks’ and ‘discussions.’

The more one-way, information providing ‘talks’ are a very useful way for researchers in different fields to explain and learn about on-going work, though time constraints generally mean that this leaves less room for questions and discussion.

On the other hand, more participative ‘discussions’ that address a broad topic, and have a loose structure to help keep them moving are a very good way for all of us to brainstorm about common ideas and concepts and hopefully leave us with more ideas (and questions!) than we started with!

The question then is – how do we strike a good balance? On Wednesday, February 18th, we will have a round-table session on…round-tables(!) to get ideas and brainstorm and discuss this.

As very good food for thought in preparation, here are some tips from Chris Lortie on how to provoke thought and and manage discussions: