Climate change will cause large-scale plant migration. Seedling recruitment constitutes a bottleneck in the migration process but is itself climate-dependent. We tested the effect of warming on early establishment of three Arctic pioneer species, while holding other environmental variables constant. Seeds and bulbils were sown in artificial gaps in dry Arctic tundra and subjected to a 13-day heating of the soil surface by 2-8A degrees C, simulating temperature increases ranging from the general summer warming to heat waves projected to occur more frequently with global warming. All species showed decreased establishment with increasing soil surface temperature. The short-term heat pulse decreased establishment of Polygonum viviparum and Saxifraga cernua, whereas establishment of Cerastium alpinum decreased with temperature due to more permanent natural variation in micro-climate. The treatment effects increased by the quadrat of the temperature increase. Warming and in particular heat waves may result in declining establishment of Arctic plants in dry tundra regions.