Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Causes and consequences of variation in snow incidence on the high mountains of Tasmania, 1983–2013

Jamie B. Kirkpatrick A C , Manuel Nunez A , Kerry L. Bridle A , Jared Parry A and Neil Gibson B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Discipline of Geography and Spatial Sciences, School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 78, GPO, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

B Science and Conservation Division, Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife, Locked Bag 104, Bentley, WA 6983, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: J.Kirkpatrick@utas.edu.au

Australian Journal of Botany 65(3) 214-224 https://doi.org/10.1071/BT16179
Submitted: 5 September 2016  Accepted: 10 March 2017   Published: 8 May 2017

Abstract

Alpine plant species are considered to have a precarious near future in a warming world, especially where endemic on mountains without a nival zone. We investigated how and why snow patch vegetation and snow incidence varied over recent decades in Tasmania, Australia. Landsat images between 1983 and 2013 were used to calculate the proportion of clear days with snow visible on Mt Field. We compared average annual snow incidence on 74 Tasmanian alpine mountains for 1983–1996 with that for 1997–2013 using the small subset of Landsat runs in which most of Tasmania was clear of cloud. We related the temporal data from Mt Field to Tasmanian climatic data and climate indices to determine the predictors of change. We recorded plant species and life form cover from quadrats in transects through a snow patch on Mt Field in 1983, 2001 and 2014, and mapped decadal scale changes in boundaries and shrub cover at five other snow patches across the extent of the Tasmanian alpine areas from aerial photographs. The incidence of snow fluctuated between 1983 and 2013 at Mt Field with no overall trend. Snow incidence was less on lower elevation alpine mountains in the period 1997–2013 than in the period 1983–1996, but showed a weak opposite trend on mountains higher than 1350 m. The contrast in trends may be a consequence of the effect on lapse rates of stronger frontal winds associated with a steepening of latitudinal pressure gradients. At Mt Field, bare ground decreased, cover of cushion plants and tall shrubs increased and obligate snow patch species were persistent. The trends we observed in both vegetation and snow incidence differ markedly from those observed on mainland Australia. The increase in shrub cover and decrease in bare ground on Mt Field were unexpected, given the constancy in incidence of snow. These results may relate to ongoing recovery from a fire in the 1960s, as the shrub species that have increased are fire-sensitive, obligate seeders and there has been no indication of warming since 1983 in the climatic record for western Tasmania. There is a possibility that some Tasmanian alpine areas might act as long-term refugia from general warming.

Additional keywords: alpine ecology, climate change, conservation biology, ecosystem dynamics, fire ecology.


References

Allen RJ, Sherwood SC, Norris JR, Zender CS (2012) The equilibrium response to idealized thermal forcings in a comprehensive GCM: implications for recent tropical expansion. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 12, 4795–4816.
The equilibrium response to idealized thermal forcings in a comprehensive GCM: implications for recent tropical expansion.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BC38XhtFGkt7%2FK&md5=f5b255147afb7a20e723aa45126cc2b5CAS |

Armstrong RL, Brun E (2008) ‘Snow and climate.’ (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge)

Chinn T, Winkler S, Salinger MJ, Haakensen N (2005) Recent glacier advances in Norway and New Zealand: a comparison of their glaciological and meteorological causes. Geografiska Annaler. Series A. Physical Geography 87, 141–157.
Recent glacier advances in Norway and New Zealand: a comparison of their glaciological and meteorological causes.CrossRef |

Costin AB, Gray M, Totterdell CJ, Wimbush DJ (1979) ‘Kosciusko alpine flora.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne)

Daubenmire R (1954) Alpine timberlines in the Americas and their interpretation. Butler University Botanical Studies 11, 119–136.

Dullinger S, Gattringer A, Thuiller W, Moser D, Zimmermann NE, Guisan A, Willner W, Plutzar C, Leitner M, Mang T, Caccianiga M, Dirnböck T, Siegrun E, Fischer A, Lenoir J, Svenning J-C, Psomas A, Schmatz DR, Silc U, Vittoz P, Hülber K (2012) Extinction debt of high-mountain plants under twenty-first century climate change. Nature Climate Change 2, 619–622.
Extinction debt of high-mountain plants under twenty-first century climate change.CrossRef |

Edmonds T, Lunt ID, Roshier DA, Louis J (2006) Annual variation in the distribution of summer snowdrifts in the Kosciuszko alpine area, Australia, and its effect on the composition and structure of alpine vegetation. Austral Ecology 31, 837–848.
Annual variation in the distribution of summer snowdrifts in the Kosciuszko alpine area, Australia, and its effect on the composition and structure of alpine vegetation.CrossRef |

Elmendorf SC, Henry GHR, Hollister RD, Björk RG, Bjorkman AD, Callaghan TV, Collier LS, Cooper EJ, Cornelissen JHC, Day TA, Fosaa AM, Gould WA, Grétarsdóttir J, Harte J, Hermanutz L, Hik DS, Hofgaard A, Jarrad F, Jónsdóttir IS, Keuper F, Klanderud K, Klein JA, Koh S, Kudo G, Lang SI, Loewen V, May JL, Mercado J, Michelsen A, Molau U, Myers-Smith IH, Oberbauer SF, Pieper S, Post E, Rixen C, Robinson CH, Schmidt NM, Shaver GR, Stenström A, Tolvanen A, Totland Ø, Troxler T, Wahren C-H, Webber PJ, Welker JM, Wookey PA (2012) Global assessment of experimental climate warming on tundra vegetation: heterogeneity over space and time. Ecology Letters 15, 164–175.
Global assessment of experimental climate warming on tundra vegetation: heterogeneity over space and time.CrossRef |

Engler R, Randin CF, Thuiller W, Dullinger S, Zimmerman NE, Araújo MB, Pearman PB, Lay GL, Piedallu C, Albert CH, Choler P, Coldea G, De Lamo G, Dirnböck T, Gégout J-C, Gómez-García D, Grytnes J-A, Heegaard E, Høistad E, Nogués-Bravo D, Normand S, Puşcaş M, Sebastià M-T, Stanisci A, Theurillat J-P, Trivedi MR, Vittoz P, Guisan A (2011) 21st century climate change threatens mountain flora unequally over Europe. Global Change Biology 17, 2330–2341.
21st century climate change threatens mountain flora unequally over Europe.CrossRef |

Gibson N, Kirkpatrick JB (1985) Vegetation associated with localised snow accumulation at Mount Field West, Tasmania. Australian Journal of Ecology 10, 91–99.
Vegetation associated with localised snow accumulation at Mount Field West, Tasmania.CrossRef |

Gillett NP, Zwiers FW, Weaver AJ, Stott PA (2003) Detection of human influence on sea level pressure. Nature 422, 292–294.
Detection of human influence on sea level pressure.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD3sXitFKmu70%3D&md5=85bdfaf0aa3318b3462f0b140ef74fa1CAS |

Green K, Pickering CM (2009) The decline of snowpatches in the Snowy Mountains of Australia: importance of climate warming, variable snow and wind. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 41, 212–218.
The decline of snowpatches in the Snowy Mountains of Australia: importance of climate warming, variable snow and wind.CrossRef |

Harrison-Day V, Annandale B, Balmer J, Kirkpatrick JB (2016) Decadal scale vegetation dynamics above the alpine treeline, Mount Rufus, Tasmania. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 150, 9–17.

Harsch MA, Hulme PE, McGlone MS, Duncan RP (2009) Are treelines advancing? A global meta-analysis of treeline response to global warming. Ecology Letters 12, 1040–1049.
Are treelines advancing? A global meta-analysis of treeline response to global warming.CrossRef |

Henley BJ, Gergis J, Karoly DJ, Power SB, Kennedy J, Folland CK (2015) A tripole index for the interdecadal Pacific oscillation. Climate Dynamics 45, 3077–3090.
A tripole index for the interdecadal Pacific oscillation.CrossRef |

Hennessy K, Fawcett R, Kirono D, Mpelasoka F, Jones D, Bathols J, Whetton P, Stafford-Smith M, Howden M, Mitchell C, Plummer N (2008) An assessment of the impact of climate change on the nature and frequency of exceptional climatic events.’ (Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra)

Hewitt N, Klenk N, Smith AL, Bazely DR, Yan N, Wood S, MacLellan JI, Lipsig-Mumme C, Henriques I (2011) Taking stock of the assisted migration debate. Biological Conservation 144, 2560–2572.
Taking stock of the assisted migration debate.CrossRef |

Hooker BL, Fitzharris BB (1999) The correlation between climatic parameters and the retreat and advance of Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand. Global and Planetary Change 22, 39–48.
The correlation between climatic parameters and the retreat and advance of Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand.CrossRef |

Immerzeel WW, Droogers P, de Jong SM, Bierkens MFP (2009) Large-scale monitoring of snow cover and runoff simulation in Himalayan river basins using remote sensing. Remote Sensing of Environment 113, 40–49.
Large-scale monitoring of snow cover and runoff simulation in Himalayan river basins using remote sensing.CrossRef |

Johnson KJ, Marsden-Smedley JB (2001) Fire history of the northern part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and its associated regions. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 136, 145–152.

Jones MC (2003) Climatology of cold outbreaks with snow over Tasmania. Australian Meteorological Magazine 52, 157–169.

Jordan GJ, Harrison PA, Worth JRP, Williamson GJ, Kirkpatrick JB (2016) Palaeoendemic plants provide evidence for persistence of open, well-watered vegetation since the Cretaceous. Global Ecology and Biogeography 25, 127–140.
Palaeoendemic plants provide evidence for persistence of open, well-watered vegetation since the Cretaceous.CrossRef |

Kirkpatrick JB (1983) Treeless plant communities of the Tasmanian high country. Proceedings of the Ecological Society of Australia 12, 61–77.

Kirkpatrick JB (1997) ‘Alpine Tasmania.’ (Oxford University Press: Melbourne)

Kirkpatrick JB, Brown MJ (1984) A numerical analysis of Tasmanian higher plant endemism. Botanical Journal of the Linnaean Society of London 88, 165–183.
A numerical analysis of Tasmanian higher plant endemism.CrossRef |

Kirkpatrick JB, Bridle K, Lynch AJJ (2002a) Changes in vegetation and landforms at Hill One, Tasmania. Australian Journal of Botany 50, 753–759.
Changes in vegetation and landforms at Hill One, Tasmania.CrossRef |

Kirkpatrick JB, Bridle K, Wild A (2002b) Succession after fire in alpine vegetation on Mount Wellington, Tasmania. Australian Journal of Botany 50, 145–154.
Succession after fire in alpine vegetation on Mount Wellington, Tasmania.CrossRef |

Kirkpatrick JB, Green K, Bridle KL, Venn S (2014) Patterns of variation in Australian alpine soils and their relationships to parent material, vegetation formation, climate and topography. Catena 121, 186–194.
Patterns of variation in Australian alpine soils and their relationships to parent material, vegetation formation, climate and topography.CrossRef |

Knutson TR, Delworth TL, Dixon KW, Held IM, Lu J, Ramaswamy V, Schwarzkopf MD, Stenchikov G, Stouffer RJ (2006) Assessment of twentieth century regional surface temperature trends using the GFDL CM2 coupled models. Journal of Climate 19, 1624–1651.
Assessment of twentieth century regional surface temperature trends using the GFDL CM2 coupled models.CrossRef |

Körner C, Paulsen J (2004) A world-wide study of high altitude treeline temperatures. Journal of Biogeography 31, 713–732.
A world-wide study of high altitude treeline temperatures.CrossRef |

Kullman L (2004) Long-term geobotanical observations of climate change impacts in the Scandes of West-Central Sweden. Nordic Journal of Botany 24, 445–467.
Long-term geobotanical observations of climate change impacts in the Scandes of West-Central Sweden.CrossRef |

Mark AF, Korsten AC, Guevara DU, Dickinson KJM, Humar-Maegli T, Michel P, Halloy SRP, Lord JM, Venn SE, Morgan JW, Whigham PA, Nielsen JA (2015) Ecological responses to 52 years of experimental snow manipulation in high-alpine cushionfield, Old Man Range, south-central New Zealand. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 47, 751–772.
Ecological responses to 52 years of experimental snow manipulation in high-alpine cushionfield, Old Man Range, south-central New Zealand.CrossRef |

Marsden-Smedley JB (1998) Changes in the fire regime of southwest Tasmania over the last 200 years. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 132, 15–29.

Marsden-Smedley JB (2009) Planned burning in Tasmania: operational guidelines and review of current knowledge. Fire Management Section, Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment, Hobart, Tasmania.

Minitab Inc. (2013) Minitab 17.1.0. Available at www.minitab.com [Verified]

Myers-Smith IH, Forbes BC, Wilmking M, Hallinger M, Lantz T, Blok D, Tape KD, Macias-Fauria M, Sass-Klaassen U, Lévesque E, Boudreau S, Ropars P, Hermanutz L, Trant A, Collier LS, Weijers S, Rozema J, Rayback SA, Schmidt NM, Schaepman-Strub G, Wipf S, Rixen C, Ménard CB, Venn S, Goetz S, Andreu-Hayles L, Elmendorf S, Ravolainen V, Welker J, Grogan P, Epstein HE, Hik DS (2011) Shrub expansion in tundra ecosystems: dynamics, impacts and research priorities. Environmental Research Letters 6, 045509
Shrub expansion in tundra ecosystems: dynamics, impacts and research priorities.CrossRef |

Nunez M, Kirkpatrick JB, Nilsson C (1996) Rainfall estimation in south west Tasmania using satellite images and phytosociological calibration. International Journal of Remote Sensing 17, 1583–1600.
Rainfall estimation in south west Tasmania using satellite images and phytosociological calibration.CrossRef |

Odland A, Munkejord HK (2008) Plants as indicators of snow layer duration in southern Norwegian mountains. Ecological Indicators 8, 57–68.
Plants as indicators of snow layer duration in southern Norwegian mountains.CrossRef |

Oerlemans J (1997) Climate sensitivity of Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand, as revealed by numerical modelling. Arctic and Alpine Research 29, 233–239.
Climate sensitivity of Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand, as revealed by numerical modelling.CrossRef |

Parry J, Kirkpatrick JB, Marsden-Smedley JB (2016) Explaining the distribution, structure and species composition of snow patch vegetation in Tasmania, Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 64, 484–491.
Explaining the distribution, structure and species composition of snow patch vegetation in Tasmania, Australia.CrossRef |

Polvani LM, Waugh DW, Correa GJP, Son S-W (2011) Stratospheric ozone depletion: the main driver of twentieth-century atmospheric circulation changes in the Southern Hemisphere. Journal of Climatology 24, 795–812.
Stratospheric ozone depletion: the main driver of twentieth-century atmospheric circulation changes in the Southern Hemisphere.CrossRef |

Salinger MJ, Heine MJ, Burrows CJ (1983) Variations of stocking (Te Wae Wae) Glacier, Mount Cook, and climate relationships. New Zealand Journal of Science 26, 321–338.

Stull RB (2000) ‘Meteorology for scientists and engineers.’ (Brooks-Cole: Boston, MA, USA)

Sturm S, Racine C, Tape K (2001) Climate change: increasing shrub abundance in the Arctic. Nature 411, 546–547.
Climate change: increasing shrub abundance in the Arctic.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD3MXksVWjtbc%3D&md5=3e2d2082c432bf054a7a39ef97bfb3d0CAS |

Watson A, Davison RW, French DD (1994) Summer snow patches and climate in northeast Scotland, U.K. Arctic and Alpine Research 26, 141–151.
Summer snow patches and climate in northeast Scotland, U.K.CrossRef |

Williams RJ, Wahren C-H, Stott KAJ, Camac JS, White M, Burns E, Harris S, Nash M, Morgan JW, Venn S, Papst WA, Hoffmann AA (2015) An International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List ecosystems risk assessment for alpine snow patch herbfields, South-Eastern Australia. Austral Ecology 40, 433–443.
An International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List ecosystems risk assessment for alpine snow patch herbfields, South-Eastern Australia.CrossRef |

Willsman A, Chinn T, Lorrey A (2015) New Zealand glacier monitoring: end of summer snowline survey 2014. Report prepared for New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd, Aukland, NZ.



Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation