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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Experimental warming causes mismatches in alpine plant-microbe-fauna phenology

Yin, Rui; Qin, Wenkuan; Wang, Xudong; Xie, Dong; Wang, Hao; Zhao, Hongyang; Zhang, Zhenhua; He, Jin-Sheng; Schaedler, Martin; Kardol, Paul; Eisenhauer, Nico; Zhu, Biao


Long-term observations have shown that many plants and aboveground animals have changed their phenology patterns due to warmer temperatures over the past decades. However, empirical evidence for phenological shifts in alpine organisms, particularly belowground organisms, is scarce. Here, we investigate how the activities and phenology of plants, soil microbes, and soil fauna will respond to warming in an alpine meadow on the Tibetan Plateau, and whether their potential phenological changes will be synchronized. We experimentally simulate an increase in soil temperature by 2-4 degrees C according to future projections for this region. We find that warming promotes plant growth, soil microbial respiration, and soil fauna feeding by 8%, 57%, and 20%, respectively, but causes dissimilar changes in their phenology during the growing season. Specifically, warming advances soil faunal feeding activity in spring and delays it in autumn, while their peak activity does not change; whereas warming increases the peak activity of plant growth and soil microbial respiration but with only minor shifts in their phenology. Such phenological asynchrony in alpine organisms may alter ecosystem functioning and stability.Phenological shifts driven by climate change are well-studied in plants and aboveground animals, but scarcely in belowground biota. Here, the authors show that soil warming causes phenological mismatches between plants, soil microbes and soil microarthropods in an alpine meadow.

Published in

Nature Communications
2023, Volume: 14, number: 1, article number: 2159