Creeping down

The dwarf willow (Salix herbacea), a tiny cute creeping willow, adapted to the harsh conditions of the (sub)arctic.

Salix

We found this adorable plant in high amounts in the alpine area during our plant surveys in subarctic Norway in 2012. Virtually every plot above the tree line hosted this tough shrub, where it formed dense mats on top of the rocks.

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But then, our plant search revealed something surprising. Even below the tree line, we could find this typical alpine species, yet only in the roadsides. The harsh conditions, the open space, the added gravel, all of these conditions gave the roadsides in the area a very ‘alpine’ feel, something that our little creeping willow seemed to appreciate.

Graph

Elevational distribution of the creeping willow in the roadsides (A), intermediate plots (B) and the natural vegetation. Where its lower limit in the natural vegetation is above 400 meters, it ‘creeps’ all the way down to hundred meter along the roads.

 

So an idea was born: our dwarf willow and many of his fellow alpine species were using the road to grow at lower elevations than they are found in the natural vegetation.

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Now, after almost 4 years, this idea is proven and published in Ecography, the scientific journal specialised in these kinds of patterns  Read the whole story here!

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