30 Jan 2023
 | 30 Jan 2023
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Herbivore-shrub interactions influence ecosystem respiration and BVOC composition in the subarctic

Cole G. Brachmann, Tage Vowles, Riikka Rinnan, Mats P. Björkman, Anna Ekberg, and Robert G. Björk

Abstract. Arctic ecosystems are warming nearly four times faster than the global average which is resulting in plant community shifts and subsequent changes in biogeochemical processes such as gaseous fluxes. Additionally, herbivores shape plant communities and thereby alter the magnitude and composition of ecosystem respiration and BVOC emissions. Here we determine the effect of large mammalian herbivores on ecosystem respiration and BVOC emissions in two southern and two northern sites in Sweden, encompassing mountain birch (LOMB) and shrub heath (LORI) communities in the south and low-herb meadow (RIGA) and shrub heath (RIRI) communities in the north. Herbivory significantly decreased ecosystem respiration at RIGA and altered the BVOC composition between sites. However, plant community composition had a larger effect on ecosystem respiration as RIGA had 35 % higher emissions than the next highest emitting site (LOMB). Additionally, LOMB had the highest emissions of terpenes with the northern sites having significantly lower emissions. Differences between sites were primarily due to differences in exclosure effects, soil temperature and prevalence of different shrub growth forms. Our results suggest that herbivory has a significant effect on trace gas fluxes in a productive meadow community and differences between communities may be driven by differences in shrub composition.

Cole G. Brachmann et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2023-14', Anonymous Referee #1, 21 Feb 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Cole Brachmann, 23 Mar 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2023-14', Kathy Kelsey, 10 Mar 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Cole Brachmann, 23 Mar 2023

Cole G. Brachmann et al.

Cole G. Brachmann et al.


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Short summary
Herbivores change plant communities through grazing, altering the amount of CO2 and plant-specific chemicals (termed VOCs) emitted. We tested this effect by excluding herbivores and studying the CO2 and VOC emissions. Herbivores reduced CO2 emissions from a meadow community and altered VOC composition, however community type had the strongest effect on the amount of CO2 and VOCs released. Herbivores can mediate greenhouse gas emissions, but the effect is marginal and community dependent.