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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Local temperatures inferred from plant communities suggest strong spatial buffering of climate warming across Northern Europe

Lenoir, Jonathan; Graae, Bente Jessen; Aarrestad, Per Arild; Alsos, Inger Greve; Armbruster, W Scott; Austrheim, Gunnar; Bergendorff, Claes; Birks, H J B; Bråthen, Kari Anne; Brunet, Jörg; Bruun, Hans Henrik; Dahlberg, Carl Johan; Decocq, G; Diekmann, M.; Dynesius, Mats; Ejrnaes, Rasmus; Grytnes, John-Arvid; Hylander, Kristoffer; Klanderud, Kari; Luoto, Miska; Milbau, Ann; Moora, M.; Nygaard, Bettina; Odland, Arvid; Ravolainen, Virve Tuulia; Reinhardt, Stefanie; Sandvik, Sylvi Marlen; Schei, Fride Höistad; Speed, James David Mervyn; Tveraabak, Liv Unn; Vandvik, Vigdis; Velle, Liv Guri; Virtanen, R; Zobel, M.; Svenning, Jens-Christian
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Recent studies from mountainous areas of small spatial extent (<2500km2) suggest that fine-grained thermal variability over tens or hundreds of metres exceeds much of the climate warming expected for the coming decades. Such variability in temperature provides buffering to mitigate climate-change impacts. Is this local spatial buffering restricted to topographically complex terrains? To answer this, we here study fine-grained thermal variability across a 2500-km wide latitudinal gradient in Northern Europe encompassing a large array of topographic complexities. We first combined plant community data, Ellenberg temperature indicator values, locally measured temperatures (LmT) and globally interpolated temperatures (GiT) in a modelling framework to infer biologically relevant temperature conditions from plant assemblages within <1000-m2 units (community-inferred temperatures: CiT). We then assessed: (1) CiT range (thermal variability) within 1-km2 units; (2) the relationship between CiT range and topographically and geographically derived predictors at 1-km resolution; and (3) whether spatial turnover in CiT is greater than spatial turnover in GiT within 100-km2 units. Ellenberg temperature indicator values in combination with plant assemblages explained 4672% of variation in LmT and 9296% of variation in GiT during the growing season (June, July, August). Growing-season CiT range within 1-km2 units peaked at 6065 degrees N and increased with terrain roughness, averaging 1.97 degrees C (SD=0.84 degrees C) and 2.68 degrees C (SD=1.26 degrees C) within the flattest and roughest units respectively. Complex interactions between topography-related variables and latitude explained 35% of variation in growing-season CiT range when accounting for sampling effort and residual spatial autocorrelation. Spatial turnover in growing-season CiT within 100-km2 units was, on average, 1.8 times greater (0.32 degrees Ckm1) than spatial turnover in growing-season GiT (0.18 degrees Ckm1). We conclude that thermal variability within 1-km2 units strongly increases local spatial buffering of future climate warming across Northern Europe, even in the flattest terrains.


climate change; climatic heterogeneity; community-inferred temperature; Ellenberg indicator value; plant community; spatial heterogeneity; spatial scale; temperature; topoclimate; topography

Published in

Global Change Biology
2013, volume: 19, number: 5, pages: 1470-1481

Authors' information

Lenoir, Jonathan
Graae, Bente Jessen
Aarrestad, Per Arild
Alsos, Inger Greve
Armbruster, W Scott
Austrheim, Gunnar
Bergendorff, Claes
Birks, H J B
Bråthen, Kari Anne
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre
Bruun, Hans Henrik
Dahlberg, Carl Johan
Decocq, G
Diekmann, M.
Umeå University
Ejrnaes, Rasmus
Aarhus University
Grytnes, John-Arvid
Hylander, Kristoffer
Klanderud, Kari
Luoto, Miska
Milbau, Ann
Moora, M.
Nygaard, Bettina
Odland, Arvid
Ravolainen, Virve Tuulia
Reinhardt, Stefanie
Sandvik, Sylvi Marlen
Schei, Fride Höistad
Speed, James David Mervyn
Tveraabak, Liv Unn
Vandvik, Vigdis
Velle, Liv Guri
Virtanen, R
Zobel, M.
Svenning, Jens-Christian
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Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Climate Research

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