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Ecology – Rules to grow by

  • Eriophorum vaginatum flourishes in the tundra biome at the edge of the world, at the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments Arctic field site at the Kougarok Hillslope outside of Nome, Alaska. Credit: Verity Salmon/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

  • A lone musk ox surveys the surrounding fall colors of tundra vegetation at the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments Arctic field site outside of Nome, Alaska. Credit: Verity Salmon/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

  • Eriophorum vaginatum flourishes in the tundra biome at the edge of the world, at the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments Arctic field site at the Kougarok Hillslope outside of Nome, Alaska. Credit: Verity Salmon/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

  • A lone musk ox surveys the surrounding fall colors of tundra vegetation at the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments Arctic field site outside of Nome, Alaska. Credit: Verity Salmon/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Topic: Clean Energy

An international team of scientists found that rules governing plant growth hold true even at the edges of the world in the Arctic tundra. This new knowledge is informing predictive models that examine how critical factors such as carbon storage could change as temperatures warm.

Using the largest database of tundra plant traits yet compiled, researchers found that the strategies Arctic plants use to grow and acquire nutrients — from “live fast and die young” to “slow and steady” — are similar to strategies originally documented in plants that thrive in tropical and temperate regions.

“Even in the extreme conditions of the tundra, plants experience the same economic trade-offs in balancing growth and resources,” said Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Colleen Iversen. “However, this study focused primarily on aboveground traits. The cold world beneath our feet is still largely unexplored.”

Iversen is contributing to a similar international effort focused on the Arctic underground.