Arctic plant and soil ecology

Our main interests are in arctic plant-soil relationships that are influential at ecosystem level. In particular, we have investigated the ecosystem effects of reindeer grazing. Part of our research is focusing endophytes and root fungal symbiosis, particularly arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis. The research is conducted in long-term experimental field sites in the low arctic and subarctic areas in Finland and complemented by targeted greenhouse experiments under controlled conditions.

Group leader

Dr. Minna-Maarit Kytöviita

PhD students

Tiina Savolainen: Arctic plant N acquisition strategies

Post Docs

Dr Heli Juottonen: Succession in Arctic soil


Dr. Minna Männistö, Luke Rovaniemi

Dr. Riitta Nissinen, Jyväskylä University

Dr Johan Olofsson, Umeå University

Dr. Sari Stark, Arctic University, Rovaniemi

At Kilpisjärvi, reindeer exclosures and vegetation manipulations were established year 1999 in two low arctic meadow sites. We have studied plant and soil succession and soil temperature over the years and the research is ongoing presently. 

Compared to the exclosure areas, reindeer grazing results in vascular plant species community changes, it reduces moss abundance, amounts of bacteria and fungi in soil as well as slows down soil nutrient cycling and consequently increases organic matter accumulation in the experimental sites. Arbuscular mycorrhizal species richness is high at our field site, but it is not clear how dependent plants are on mycorrhiza derived nitrogen, especially in the grazed area the plants may rely more on dung and urine derived nitrogen. Arbuscular mycorrhizal species may form a persistent spore bank that may survive long under various environmental conditions.

At Kalmakaltio subarctic sand dune area, permanent vegetation plots were established in different successional stages year 2008. The successional stages include bare sand, grass monocultures, ericaceous heath and mountain birch forest.  We investigate the role of endophytic bacteria and fungi and the role of  biological soil crusts in vegetation succession. Using metagenomic approaches, we have characterised the plant and soil microbial communities in different successional stages. The resilience and function of the endophytic communities has been studied in transplant experiments in the field and in the greenhouse.