Delayed postglacial colonization ofBetulain Iceland and the circum North Atlantic Journal Article uri icon



  • ABSTRACTAs the Arctic continues to warm, woody shrubs are expected to expand northward. This process, known as “shrubification”, has important implications for regional biodiversity, food web structure, and high-latitude temperature amplification. While the future rate of shrubification remains poorly constrained, past records of plant immigration to newly deglaciated landscapes in the Arctic may serve as useful analogues. We provide one new postglacial Holocene sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) record of vascular plants from Iceland and place a second Iceland postglacialsedaDNA record on an improved geochronology; both show Salicaceae present shortly after deglaciation whereas Betulaceae first appears more than 1000 years later. We find a similar pattern of delayed Betulaceae colonization in eight previously published postglacial sedaDNA records from across the glaciated circum North Atlantic. In nearly all cases, we find that Salicaceae colonizes earlier than Betulaceae and that Betulaceae colonization is increasingly delayed for locations farther from glacial-age woody plant refugia. These trends in Salicaceae and Betulaceae colonization are consistent with the plant families’ environmental tolerances, species diversity, reproductive strategies, seed sizes, and soil preferences. As these reconstructions capture the efficiency of postglacial vascular plant migration during a past period of high-latitude warming, a similarly slow response of some woody shrubs to current warming in glaciated regions, and possibly non-glaciated tundra, may delay Arctic shrubification and future changes in the structure of tundra ecosystems and temperature amplification.

publication date

  • March 14, 2023

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • March 14, 2023 11:47 AM

Full Author List

  • Harning DJ; Sacco S; Anamthawat-Jónsson K; Ardenghi N; Thordarson T; Raberg JH; Sepúlveda J; Geirsdóttir Á; Shapiro B; Miller GH

author count

  • 10

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