Sensitivity of ecosystem properties to winter climate anomalies
Climate change alters ecosystem and community properties and although inter-annual variation occurs year-round (Dominguez et al. 2012), most research on the response of ecosystems to climate change occurs during the primary growing season (e.g. Knapp et al. 2002) or uses annual averages that homogenize across seasons (e.g. Knapp & Smith 2001, Hsu et al. 2012). This research pattern disproportionately neglects ecosystem changes during the cold season when animals and plants are often dormant, yet some studies show that ecosystem responses to climate anomalies during the winter are equal or greater to the responses to growing season variation (Kreyling 2010). Understanding the sensitivity of ecosystem properties to winter climate anomalies is a timely and important endeavor, as winter climate is changing faster than summer temperatures in many regions. Yet, knowledge regarding ecosystem response is very spatially limited. Previous research on winter ecology largely focuses on response of forest or tundra systems to winter extremes. In such cases, winter anomalies alter community structure (Rhoads et al. 2002) and function through changes in soil thawing, C, N and water cycles (Matzner & Borken 2008). A broader more comprehensive understanding of ecosystem responses to winter climate anomalies is needed.