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Wind distortion in alpine and subantarctic plants is constant among life forms but dose not necessarily reflect prevailing wind direction

Fitzgerald, NB ORCID: 0000-0002-1281-6897 and Kirkpatrick, JB ORCID: 0000-0002-3152-3299 2017 , 'Wind distortion in alpine and subantarctic plants is constant among life forms but dose not necessarily reflect prevailing wind direction' , Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, vol. 49, no. 4 , pp. 521-535 , doi: 10.1657/AAAR0016-054.

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Woody plants in windy environments have been used as indicators of prevailing wind direction, because wind can influence plant growth form. We investigated whether non-woody plants also display consistent prevailing wind deformation by observing the direction of asymmetry in growth form of cushion plants, graminoids, and prostrate shrubs growing in highly wind-exposed treeless environments in alpine Tasmania and subantarctic Macquarie Island. Wind distortion of individual plants was inferred from vertical photographs of feldmark and alpine heath vegetation. High correspondence in growth direction between plants of different types suggests a uniform wind influence on plants at the local scale (within <2 m). Dominant wind direction inferred from plant distortion was not consistent with the strongest and most frequent winds. On a relatively dry mountain with shallow soils the plants responded to strong northwest winds in an apparent desiccation response. Elsewhere, they responded to strong southwest winds in an apparent ice abrasion response. We conclude that, in maritime alpine and subantarctic environments, the direction of wind distortion can be measured using any of shrubs, graminoids, or cushion plants, but that this direction is not necessarily a response to the prevailing strongest winds, but rather winds that most damage foliage, the cause of damage varying with environmental context.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Fitzgerald, NB and Kirkpatrick, JB
Keywords: wind distortion, alpine, subantarctic, Tasmania, Macquarie Island, wind direction
Journal or Publication Title: Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research
Publisher: Inst Arctic Alpine Res
ISSN: 1523-0430
DOI / ID Number: 10.1657/AAAR0016-054
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Copyright 2017 Regents of the University of Colorado

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