1. Climate change is creating phenological mismatches between herbivores and their plant resources throughout the Arctic. While advancing growing seasons and changing arrival times of migratory herbivores has been shown to have consequences for herbivores and forage quality, developing mismatches are also likely to influence other traits of plants, such as above- and belowground biomass and the type of reproduction, that are often not investigated.
2. In coastal western Alaska, we conducted a three-year factorial experiment that simulated scenarios of phenological mismatch by manipulating the start of the growing season (ca. 3-weeks early and ambient) and grazing times (3-weeks early, typical, 3-weeks late, or no-grazing) of Pacific black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans), to examine how the timing of these events influence a primary goose forage species, Carex subspathacea.
3. After three years, an advanced growing season compared to a typical growing season increased stem heights, standing dead biomass, and the number of inflorescences. Early season grazing compared to typical season grazing reduced above- and belowground biomass, stem height, and the number of tillers; while late season grazing increased the number of inflorescences and standing dead biomass by year 3. Therefore, an advanced growing season and late grazing had comparable directional effects on most plant traits, but a 3-week delay in grazing had an impact on vegetation traits 3 to 5 times greater than a similar shift in advancement of spring conditions. In addition, changes in response to treatments for some variables, such as the number of inflorescences, were not measurable until the second year of the experiment, while other variables, such as root productivity and number of tillers, changed the direction of their responses to treatments over time.
4. Synthesis: Factors influencing the timing of migration have a larger influence on an important forage species than earlier springs in the breeding and rearing habitats of Pacific black brant. The phenological mismatch prediction for this site of earlier springs and later goose arrival will likely increase above- and belowground biomass and sexual reproduction of C. subspathacea. Implications for mismatch may be difficult to predict because some variables required successive years of mismatch to respond.