Deciduous Tundra Shrubs Shift Toward More Acquisitive Light Absorption Strategy Under Climate Change Treatments

R.J. Heim*, M. Iturrate-Garcia, M. Reji Chacko, S. Karsanaev, T.C. Maximov, M.M.P.D. Heijmans, G. Schaepman-Strub

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The effects of climate change on plants are particularly pronounced in the Arctic region. Warming relaxes the temperature and nutrients boundaries that limit tundra plant growth. Increased resource availability under future climate conditions may induce a shift from a conservative economic strategy to an acquisitive one. Following the leaf economics spectrum that hypothesizes a strategy gradient between survival, plant size and costs for the photosynthetic leaf area, light absorption of tundra plants may increase. We investigated climate change effects on light absorptance and the relationship between light absorptance (fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation, FAPAR) and structural and nutritional leaf traits, performing a soil warming and surface soil fertilization experiment on two deciduous tundra shrub species. Our results show that fertilization and warming combined increase light absorptance in Arctic shrubs and that FAPAR is correlated with leaf nutrients but not with structural leaf traits. This indicates an economic strategy shift of shrubs from conservative to acquisitive induced by warming and fertilization combined. We found species-specific differences: FAPAR was influenced by warming alone in Betula nana but not in Salix pulchra, and FAPAR was correlated with leaf phosphorus in B. nana but not in S. pulchra. We attribute this to water limitation of B. nana that generally grows in drier areas within the study site compared to S. pulchra. We conclude that FAPAR is a measure that opens up more possibilities to estimate nutritional leaf traits and nutrient cycles, plant economic strategies, and ecological feedbacks of the tundra ecosystem on broader scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023JG007657
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Betula nana
  • leaf economics spectrum
  • plant traits
  • Salix pulchra
  • shrub encroachment


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