Time to chill: Effects of simulated global change on leaf ice nucleation temperatures of subarctic vegetation

D. J. Beerling, A. C. Terry, P. L. Mitchell, Terry V. Callaghan, Dylan Gwynn-Jones, John A. Lee

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35 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated the effects of long-term (7-yr) in situ CO2 enrichment (600 µmol/mol) and increased exposure to UV-B radiation, the latter an important component of global change at high latitudes, on the ice nucleation temperatures of leaves of several evergreen and deciduous woody ericaceous shrubs in the subarctic (68° N). Three (Vaccinium uliginosum, V. vitis-idaea, and Empetrum hermaphroditum) of the four species of shrubs studied showed significantly higher ice nucleation temperatures throughout the 1999 growing season in response to CO2 enrichment and increased exposure to UV-B radiation relative to the controls. The same species also showed a strong interactive effect when both treatments were applied together. In all cases, leaves cooled to below their ice nucleation temperatures failed to survive the damage resulting from intracellular ice formation. Our results strongly suggest that future global change on a decadal time scale (atmospheric CO2 increases and polar stratospheric O3 destruction) will lead to increased foliage damage of subarctic vegetation by severe late spring or early autumnal frosting events. Indeed, in support of our experimental findings, there is now some evidence that increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration over the past three to four decades may already have acted in this manner on high-elevation arboreal plants in the Swedish Scandes. The implications for vegetation modeling in a future 'greenhouse' world and palaeoclimate estimates from high-latitude plant fossils dating to the high-CO2 environment of the Mesozoic are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628-633
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2001


  • Elevated CO
  • Elevated UV-B
  • Frost damage
  • Global environmental change
  • Ice nucleation temperatures
  • Subarctic


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