Global models project impending climate changes that could significantly alter plant species composition in ecosystems. Climate manipulation experiments provide an opportunity to investigate such effects. Here we describe and apply a method for extracting the age-detrended growth rate of sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) and show that experimental ecosystem warming enhances the growth rate of this shrub. Snowmelt date, not soil temperature or moisture, is demonstrated to be the dominant climate variable controlling the observed effect. Our findings suggest that global climate change will result in increased growth and range expansion of sagebrush near northern or high-elevation range boundaries in the Western United States.
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