TeamShrub is off to Perth – that is Perth, Scotland not Australia!

Next week TeamShrub will be attending the Perth Mountain Conference in lovely Perth, Scotland just up north from Edinburgh towards Scotland’s mountains!  If you are at the meeting, come check out the following presentations.

In the session “Arctic and alpine: How do alpine regions differ from arctic regions?”:

15-3 From the top of the mountain to the top of the world: biogeographic patterns in plant functional traits across the tundra biome
Anne Bjorkman*1, Isla Myers-Smith2, Sarah Elmendorf3, Nadja Rüger1, Jens Kattge4, sTUNDRA Working Group1
1German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, Germany, 2University of Edinburgh, UK, 3NEON Inc., USA, 4Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany
S2 Arctic and alpine tundra vegetation change has no net impact on tundra litter decomposition rates
Haydn Thomas*1, Anne Bjorkman2, Isla Myers-Smith1, Sarah Elmendorf3, Hans Cornelissen4, Daan Blok5, Jens Kattge6, Martin Hallinger7, Gabriela Schaepman-Strub8, Ken Tape9, Martin Wilmking10, sTUNDRA Working Group2
1University of Edinburgh, UK, 2German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, Germany, 3Univerisity of Colorado Boulder, USA, 4VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 5University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 6Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany, 7Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden, 8University of Zurich, Switzerland, 9University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA, 10University of Greifswald, Germany

In the session “Mountain treeline ecotones; threshold dynamics and climatic relationships”:

31-2 The influence of plant size on the climate sensitivity of tundra shrubs
Sandra Angers-Blondin*1, Isla Myers-Smith1, Stéphane Boudreau2, Bruce C. Forbes3, Marc Macias-Fauria4, Noémie Boulanger-Lapointe5, Martin Hallinger6, Ken D. Tape7, Esther Lévesque8, Stef Weijers9, Daan Blok10, Trevor Lantz11, Rasmus Halfdan Jørgensen10, Andrew Trant11, Laura Siegwart Collier12, Luise Hermanutz12, James D. M. Speed13, Agata Buchwal14, Allan Buras6, Martin Wilmking6
1University of Edinburgh, UK, 2Université Laval, Canada, 3University of Lapland, Finland, 4University of Oxford, UK, 5University of British Columbia, Canada, 6Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University Greifswald, Germany, 7University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA, 8Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Canada, 9University of Bonn, Germany, 10University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 11University of Victoria, Canada, 12Memorial University, Canada, 13Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, 14Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland

We’re back!!!

Team Shrub touched down at the Inuvik Airport at around 11:30 am on Thursday 13 August.  It seems both surreal that we are no longer on Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island and totally strange to be back to the land of internet connectivity and modern conveniences.  I think we all have mixed feelings about the return: happy to be back in touch with family and friends, but sad to leave our Arctic fieldwork home.

The final days on Qikiqtaruk were pretty epic.  In our last days, the weather deteriorated to high winds and rain, culminating in a storm.  This meant no fieldwork and TeamShrub trapped in doors in the Trappers cabin trying to do computer work.  As the winds continued to blow with rain and near freezing temperatures, our cabin fever increased.  All we wanted was one more day of fieldwork, to collect the last of the drone data and to do a bit more point framing.

Yukon North Slope

Our final day on Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island was glorious sunshine again.

On our final full day on the island, the clouds parted.  So instead of finishing our packing we went out for a final data collection session.  Haydn and myself headed up to the long-term ecological monitoring plots to finish our data collection looking at variation in plant biomass estimates across the growing season.  Up on Herschel the tundra is looking very brown and yellow now.  Winter is coming.

Qikiqtaruk was looking a lot more yellow and brown than green by the end of our trip.

Qikiqtaruk was looking a lot more yellow and brown than green by the end of our trip.

The rest of the crew were on team drone and headed out to conduct the last flights over the phenology plots and Collinson head.  These final flights give us imagery across the growing season from before the peak of the summer into the autumn.  The drone fieldwork has become pretty efficient over time with Jakob flying 45 different flights and over 6 hours in the air in total. Joe and Santeri have also become very proficient at hiking around with the huge landing pad.  There was only one minor mishap involving Joe, a gust of wind and a puddle.

When we returned to camp it was time for the French feast, a feast hosted by the French members of the Alfred Wegener Institute crew and involving savoury galettes and sweet crêpes.  Delicious!  Then some tunes were played and a bit of dancing ensued.  Finally, in the wee hours of the morning Team Shrub agreed that it was time to finish off our packing for our flight the next morning.

Our final hours on Qikiqtaruk were a mad rush of packing surrounded by a beautiful pink sunset-sunrise.  By 10:05am when the plane landed we were packed and ready to go and everyone had got at least one restful one hour of sleep.

Back in Inuvik, we have been internetting, showering, doing laundry, and catching up on life after a month away from the outer world.  Next we head down south to Kluane to plant our Herschel shrub samples in the common garden, set up Haydn’s decomposition experiment, and collect the last of the plant trait data.  Only one more week of fieldwork for the Team Shrub 2015 field crew.

By Isla


The Team Shrub 2015 plaque that is now displayed on the wall of the Hunter and Trappers Cabin on Qikiqtaruk.

News Flash – New tallest shrub on Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island

The famous 120 cm-tall Günther the shrub has been upstaged by a new tallest shrub on Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island: Bjørn who is a whopping 136 cm tall.  Also a Salix Richardsonii like his (or her we aren’t quite sure yet) shorter neighbour.  Here Joe expresses his shock and surprise at the impressive height of Bjørn.

Shrub Pub on climate sensitivity of tundra shrub growth!

The latest publication from the ShrubHub Network is published today in Nature Climate Change!  This is the culmination of an over five year effort to synthesize the growth of tundra shrubs at sites around the Arctic. We found high but variable temperature sensitivity of shrubs at sites around the tundra biome with higher climate sensitivity at sites with greater soil moisture and for taller shrubs (e.g., alders, willows) growing at their northern or upper elevational range edges.  Overall, the climate sensitivity of shrub growth was greatest at the boundary between the low and high Arctic, where permafrost is thawing and the majority of the global permafrost soil carbon pool is stored. Thus, the greatest climate responses of tundra shrubs might occur in the parts of the Arctic where the greatest climate change impacts and feedbacks are expected to occur.

Check it out at:
Climate sensitivity of shrub growth across the tundra biome

Press Releases
European Commission JRC
University of Alberta
Woods Hole Research Center
Université de Sherbrooke

Here are some of the media links as they roll in…
BBC Science Hour
BBC Science in Action
Globe and Mail
Yahoo News
Physics Org
Reporting Climate Science
CTV News
Daily Mail

Science Presse
La Tribune

Die Welt
Der Standard
Science APA
Science Orf



Tundra shrubs in the alpine of the Kluane Region of the Yukon Territory where we have just been conducting our fieldwork (see blog posts below).


Annual growth rings, a.k.a “shrubrings” in a tundra willow used test the climate sensitivity of shrub growth.

Highs and lows on the Kluane Plateau

We are back to semi-civilization after our second field data collection trip up into the alpine. This time the adventures and challenges were of an either furry, wet or buzzy nature.


Our latest epic jumping shot from the top of the Kluane Plateau.

Our first challenge appeared just as we were getting ready to head for bed on the first night. Haydn saw something blond and furry ambling around in the tundra a few hundred metres from our camp. It was what looked to be an adult male Grizzly bear that we called Jean-Pierre. We watched Jean-Pierre’s reactions to our presence and he seemed pretty relaxed, yet wary of us. With our food well cached far away and our tents close together, we felt it was safe to head to bed with our neighbour continuing his foraging into the night.


A grizzly bear from the 2014 field season that looks a lot like a smaller and more svelte version of Jean-Pierre.

Over the rest of the trip we went on to see at least four bears total and perhaps more. We saw another chocolate brown Grizzly on a couple of occasions that we named Jean-“Clawed” a mom and a cub (Francine and “Fur”-dinand). The Kluane Plateau is a very bear-y place, but the bears were very respectful of us as we were of them. And bears weren’t the only wildlife we saw: there was a bumbling porcupine, soaring ravens, wandering tattlers, the robin with a nest and three blue eggs next to our camp, and more – including mosquitoes…

The next challenge was the day of rain that slowed down our progress. We tried to sleep in until the rain stopped, but the rain kept raining. So we made our breakfast in the drizzle, which reminded us all of truly Scottish weather, and then headed out for some field data collection. After a couple of hours, the wet was starting to seep through our rain gear, down our necks and up our sleeves and we were starting to get pretty cold. So we returned to camp and to our tents. The boys played games of cards in very cramped conditions, and some of us read books if we had brought them along, whereas I just rested my eyes. I haven’t got that much sleep over a 24 hour period for years!


The Sunset after the storm from our camp on the Plateau.

The final challenge of the Kluane Plateau was the bugs. Once the rain had cleared and the sun returned, the normally stiff alpine breeze was absent and this meant mosquitoes. For the following day, there was a persistent humming in our ears, flies in our food and itchy bits on any exposed skin – we are still itching away. One member of our team, Joe, has decided to be truly epic (or possibly foolish) and to go without bug spray. The rest of us were only too happy to spray on some temporary relief from the insistent clouds of biting insect at every opportunity. (Don’t tell the rest of the crew, but the number of bugs that we were experiencing up on the Plateau was nothing to what we could encounter when we get up to Herschel!).


Dinnertime at sunset (11:30pm at night) after the rainy day. Look how happy we look now that the rain is gone!

After four days of sample collecting and adventures in the alpine we made our way back down to “Base” (a.k.a. The Kluane Lake Research Station). But before leaving our temporary home on the Kluane Plateau we decided to summit the ridge as a group to take a last look at the panoramic views of snow-capped mountains and a glacial-fed lake (positively limnic!). As we reached the summit, we felt true “Tatenfreude”, the joy in anticipation of accomplishing something (or as Isla likes to think of it “Tartan-freude”, the joy that people from Scotland feel when they accomplish something).

By Isla


The exploding high five from Team Shrub at the top of the Kluane Plateau.

P.S. Our major scientific finding of the week is that willow (Salix pulchra and Salix richardsonii) seed germination rates can be very high when the catkins are freshly picked of the tundra shrubs. Check out these SUPER CUTE baby willows!


Baby willow seedlings only a few days old – how sweet! Sigh.

Shrubs here we come!

After three days of shopping, packing and late night barbecues, we have now left the city of Whithorse and our jet lag behind us. A late night drive up the scenic Alaska Highway took us out to our new homebase at the Kluane Lake Research Station. Today the weather is summery, the surroundings stunning and the chipmunks just charming.

Now it’s time to put on our gear, grab our daypacks and go out into the field!


Our first TeamShrub trip to Tim Hortons!


Our very full shopping cart at Superstore


The scenic drive to the Kluane Lake Research Station (a.k.a. Base)

By Jakob

Team shrub grows!

We had a record sized team shrub meeting this week with Meagan Grabowski visiting from UBC/the Yukon, Anne Bjorkman visiting from iDiv/Germany and our new programmer Damien Georges joining the team!  Congrats to Haydn and Sandra for passing their PhD confirmation panels!!!

TeamShrubThe sedate photo

TeamShrub2 And the jumping photo!

Team shrub highlighted in BioScience

Isla and other ShrubHub members are mentioned in a recent article in the journal BioScience: Plants Duke It Out in a Warming Arctic by Lesley Evans Ogden.

From the article: “Researchers are collaborating to document and predict Arctic vegetation shifts, particularly the phenomenon of shrub encroachment, or shrubification. What do we know about vegetation change in a warming Arctic? Are shrubs taking over, and where are the knowledge gaps?… Myers-Smith uses repeat photography, vegetation monitoring, and tree ring assessment, noting a dramatic shift… In 2014, she was surprised to measure an individual with a height of 1 meter, a giant twice as tall as most others. “We named him Gunther, the tallest shrub on Herschel Island,” she says. Gunther grew 20 centimeters in one summer.”

GuntherGünther the 110-cm-tall shrub on Herschel Island

New paper published in PNAS!

In this paper lead by Sarah Elmendorf, we compared three methods of estimating warming effects on plant community composition: 1) manipulative warming experiments, 2) repeat sampling under ambient temperature change (monitoring), and 3) space-for-time substitution.

The three approaches showed agreement in the increase in the relative abundance of species with a warmer thermal niche, but differed in the magnitude of change estimated. Experimental and monitoring approaches were similar in magnitude, whereas space-for-time comparisons indicated a much stronger response.

These results suggest that all three approaches are valid, but experimental warming and long-term monitoring are best suited for forecasting impacts over the coming decades.

Check out the paper here: