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Patterned-Ground Plant Communities along a bioclimate gradient in the High Arctic, Canada

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Non-sorted circles, non-sorted polygons, and earth hummocks are common ground-surface features in arctic regions. They are caused by a variety of physical processes that occur in permafrost regions including contraction cracking and frost heave. Here we describe the vegetation of patterned-ground forms on zonal sites at three locations along an N-S transect through the High Arctic of Canada. We made 75 relevés on patterned-ground features (circles, polygons, earth hummocks) and adjacent tundra (interpolygon, intercircle, interhummock areas) and identified and classified the vegetation according to the Braun-Blanquet method. Environmental factors were correlated with the vegetation data using a nonmetric multidimensional scaling ordination (NMDS). We identified eleven communities: (1) Puccinellia angustataPapaver radicatum community in xeromesic non-sorted polygons of subzone A of the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map; (2) SaxifragaParmelia omphalodes ssp. glacialis community in hydromesic interpolygon areas of subzone A; (3) Hypogymnia subobscuraLecanora epibryon community in xeromesic non-sorted polygons of subzone B; (4) Orthotrichum speciosum-Salix arctica community in xeromesic interpolygon areas of subzone B; (5) Cochlearia groenlandica-Luzula nivalis community in hydromesic earth hummocks of subzone B; (6) Salix arcticaEriophorum angustifolium ssp. triste community in hygric earth hummocks of subzone B; (7) Puccinellia angustataPotentilla vahliana community in xeromesic non-sorted circles and bare patches of subzone C; (8) Dryas integrifoliaCarex rupestris community in xeromesic intercircle areas and vegetated patches of subzone C; (9) Braya glabella ssp. purpurascensDryas integrifolia community in hydromesic non-sorted circles of subzone C; (10) Dryas integrifoliaCarex aquatilis community in hydromesic intercircle areas of subzone C; and (11) Eriophorum angustifolium ssp. tristeCarex aquatilis community in hygric intercircle areas of subzone C. The NMDS ordination displayed the vegetation types with respect to complex environmental gradients. The first axis of the ordination corresponds to a complex soil moisture gradient and the second axis corresponds to a complex geology/elevation/climate gradient. The tundra plots have a greater moss and graminoid cover than the adjacent frost-heave communities. In general, frost-heave features have greater thaw depths, more bare ground, thinner organic horizons, and lower soil moisture than the surrounding tundra. The morphology of the investigated patterned ground forms changes along the climatic gradient, with non-sorted polygons dominating in the northernmost sites and non-sorted circles dominating in the southern sites.
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Keywords: BIOCOMPLEXITY; BRAUN-BLANQUET CLASSIFICATION; EARTH HUMMOCKS; NON-SORTED CIRCLES; NON-SORTED POLYGONS; NONMETRIC MULTIDIMENSIONAL SCALING

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2008

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  • Phytocoenologia (ISSN 0340-269X) is an international, peer-reviewed journal of plant community ecology. It is devoted to vegetation survey and classification at any organizational and spatial scale and without restriction to certain methodological approaches. The journal publishes original papers that develop new vegetation typologies as well as applied studies that use such typologies, for example, in vegetation mapping, ecosystem modelling, nature conservation, land use management or monitoring. Particularly encouraged are methodological studies that design and compare tools for vegetation classification and mapping, such as algorithms, databases and nomenclatural principles. Papers dealing with conceptual and theoretical bases of vegetation survey and classification are also welcome. While large-scale studies are preferred, regional studies will be considered when filling important knowledge gaps or presenting new methods.

    Phytocoenologia was founded by Reinhold Tüxen in 1973 and is published in collaboration with the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS; www.iavs.org). The journal closely cooperates with various subgroups of IAVS and serves as publication outlet for their workshops as well as for selected sessions of the IAVS Symposia. It contains special sections on “Phytosociological Nomenclature” and “Ecoinformatics”. Guest-edited Special Features that fall within the scope of the journal are also published.

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