The regional species richness and genetic diversity of Arctic vegetation reflect both past glaciations and current climate: Glaciation effect on arctic vegetation diversity

Laerke Stewart, Inger G. Alsos, Christian Bay, Amy L. Breen, Christian Brochmann, Noemie Boulanger-Lapointe, Olivier Broennimann, Helga Bueltmann, Peder Klith Bocher, Christian Orup Damgaard, Fred J. A. Daniels, Dorothee Ehrich, Pernille Bronken Eidesen, Antoine Guisan, Ingibjorg Svala Jonsdottir, Jonathan Lenoir, Peter C. le Roux, Esther Levesque, Miska Luoto, Jacob Nabe-NielsenPeter Schoenswetter, Andreas Tribsch, Liv Unn Tveraabak, Risto Virtanen, Donald A. Walker, Kristine B. Westergaard, Nigel G. Yoccoz, Jens-Christian Svenning, Mary Wisz, Niels Martin Schmidt, Loic Pellissier

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


AimThe Arctic has experienced marked climatic differences between glacial and interglacial periods and is now subject to a rapidly warming climate. Knowledge of the effects of historical processes on current patterns of diversity may aid predictions of the responses of vegetation to future climate change. We aim to test whether plant species and genetic diversity patterns are correlated with time since deglaciation at regional and local scales. We also investigate whether species richness is correlated with genetic diversity in vascular plants.LocationCircumarctic.MethodsWe investigated species richness of the vascular plant flora of 21 floristic provinces and examined local species richness in 6215 vegetation plots distributed across the Arctic. We assessed levels of genetic diversity inferred from amplified fragment length polymorphism variation across populations of 23 common Arctic species. Correlations between diversity measures and landscape age (time since deglaciation) as well as variables characterizing current climate were analysed using spatially explicit simultaneous autoregressive models.ResultsRegional species richness of vascular plants and genetic diversity were correlated with each other, and both showed a positive relationship with landscape age. Plot species richness showed differing responses for vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens. At this finer scale, the richness of vascular plants was not significantly related to landscape age, which had a small effect size compared to the models of bryophyte and lichen richness.Main conclusionOur study suggests that imprints of past glaciations in Arctic vegetation diversity patterns at the regional scale are still detectable today. Since Arctic vegetation is still limited by post-glacial migration lag, it will most probably also exhibit lags in response to current and future climate change. Our results also suggest that local species richness at the plot scale is more determined by local habitat factors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)430-442
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • AFLP
  • Arctic plants
  • Bryophytes
  • Glaciation History
  • Intraspecific Genetic Diversity
  • Lichens
  • Species Richness
  • Taxonomic Groups
  • Vascular Plants


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