Netherlands Polar Data Center

Publication - Microclimate impacts of passive warming methods in Antarctica: implications for climate change studies


Passive chambers are used to examine the impacts of summer warming in Antarctica but, so far, impacts occurring outside the growing season, or related to extreme temperatures, have not been reported, despite their potentially large biological significance. In this review, we synthesise and discuss the microclimate impacts of passive warming chambers (closed, ventilated and Open Top Chamber—OTC) commonly used in Antarctic terrestrial habitats, paying special attention to seasonal warming, during the growing season and outside, extreme temperatures and freeze–thaw events. Both temperature increases and decreases were recorded throughout the year. Closed chambers caused earlier spring soil thaw (8–28 days) while OTCs delayed soil thaw (3–13 days). Smaller closed chamber types recorded the largest temperature extremes (up to 20C higher than ambient) and longest periods (up to 11 h) of above ambient extreme temperatures, and even OTCs had above ambient temperature extremes over up to 5 consecutive hours. The frequency of freeze–thaw events was reduced by ~25%. All chamber types experienced extreme temperature ranges that could negatively affect biological responses, while warming during winter could result in depletion of limited metabolic resources. The effects outside the growing season could be as important in driving biological responses as the mean summer warming. We make suggestions for improving season-specific warming simulations and propose that seasonal and changed temperature patterns achieved under climate manipulations should be recognised explicitly in descriptions of treatment effects.


Brent J. Sinclair
Marc Lebouvier
Bart Van de Vijver
Diana H. Wall


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