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Canadian Arctic vegetation mapping

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During the next few decades the Arctic is expected to experience unprecedented changes in climate and resource development. All of these will potentially affect land use and vegetation cover. There is a need for a comprehensive and consistent circumpolar map of arctic vegetation that will be useful for modelling vegetation change in the circumpolar region. The Canadian arctic vegetation map is part of the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Mapping project (CAVM) which was initiated to fulfil this need. The CAVM is an effort by an international group of arctic vegetation scientists to create a map and GIS database of circumpolar vegetation at the 1:7 500 000 scale. The Canadian vegetation map and ultimate circumpolar map will be useful for the study of arctic vegetation, modelling vegetation change at the continental and circumpolar scale, interpreting patterns of wildlife distribution and migration, land management, and educational purposes.

The mapping effort combines information on soils, bedrock and surficial geology, hydrology, remotely-sensed vegetation characteristics, previous vegetation studies and regional expertise of mapping scientists. Map units are drawn using photo-interpretation of a 1:4 000 000 scale AHVRR false colour infrared image basemap. Mapped polygons represent homogeneous landscape terrain units (e.g. hills, plains, plateaus, mountains and valleys). A GIS database contains ancillary information for each polygon and vegetation is defined through a series of lookup tables with information on dominant climatic, parent material chemistry and topographic characteristics.

We present the mapping methods, a vegetation map of the Canadian Arctic, and ancillary maps developed in the mapping process. Twenty land cover classes are presented on the map, including 17 vegetation classes that are defined by dominant physiognomy (growth form), dominant moisture regime, characteristic plant communities and characteristic degree of vegetation cover. Ancillary data presented include the AVHRR CIR basemap and landscape unit polygons, a maximum NDVI image, bioclimatic and elevational zones, and a map of parent material pH.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 20, 2002

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