Century-long stomatal density record of the nitrophyte, Rubus spectabilis L., from the Pacific Northwest indicates no effect of changing atmospheric carbon dioxide but a strong response to nutrient subsidy

Ron Ydenberg, Ben Leyland, Mark Hipfner, Herbert H.T. Prins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Triangle Island on Canada's Pacific coast is home to a large, globally important seabird breeding colony. The shrub Salmonberry Rubus spectabilis and tussock-forming Tufted Hairgrass Deschampsia cespitosa together form ~70% of vegetation coverage and contain the vast majority (~90%) of seabird nesting burrows. Salmonberry has in recent decades greatly expanded its coverage, while that of Tufted Hairgrass has receded. Seabirds prefer not to burrow under Salmonberry, making its ongoing expansion a potential conservation issue. We investigated three hypotheses proposed to explain Salmonberry's expansion (climate change, biopedturbation, and nutrient input), using comparisons of stomatal density of Salmonberry leaves sampled from Triangle Island, other seabird colonies, other coastal locations, and from historical specimens in herbaria. Stomatal density helps regulate photosynthetic gain and control water loss, and responds to light, nutrient, carbon dioxide, and water availability. Differing patterns of stomatal density are expected among sample locations depending on which of the hypothesized factors most strongly affects Salmonberry's performance. Our data are most consistent with the nutrient input hypothesis. We discuss possible reasons why Salmonberry has expanded so recently, even though Triangle has been a large seabird colony for at least a century and likely much longer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18081-18088
Number of pages8
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume11
Issue number24
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021

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