The responses of high latitude ecosystems to global change involve complex interactions among environmental variables, vegetation distribution, carbon dynamics, and water and energy exchange. These responses may have important consequences for the earth system. In this study, we evaluated how vegetation distribution, carbon stocks and turnover, and water and energy exchange are related to environmental variation spanned by the network of the IGBP high latitude transects. While the most notable feature of the high latitude transects is that they generally span temperature gradients from southern to northern latitudes, there are substantial differences in temperature among the transects. Also, along each transect temperature co-varies with precipitation and photosynthetically active radiation, which are also variable among the transects. Both climate and disturbance interact to influence latitudinal patterns of vegetation and soil carbon storage among the transects, and vegetation distribution appears to interact with climate to determine exchanges of heat and moisture in high latitudes. Despite limitations imposed by the data we assembled, the analyses in this study have taken an important step toward clarifying the complexity of interactions among environmental variables, vegetation distribution, carbon stocks and turnover, and water and energy exchange in high latitude regions. This study reveals the need to conduct coordinated global change studies in high latitudes to further elucidate how interactions among climate, disturbance, and vegetation distribution influence carbon dynamics and water and energy exchange in high latitudes.
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Vol. 13 • No. 3