KNO6: Pan-arctic assessment and data management of plant diversity and community

Date: Thursday October 11, 2018

Location: Erottaja, ELY

Time: 8:30-10:00

This session addresses the development of standardized methods to assess and manage records of plant species diversity and plant communities at the pan-arctic scale. These efforts include a recent update of the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map (CAVM), and the Arctic Vegetation Archive (AVA). Standardization efforts are discussed with respect to taxonomy, spatial sampling design, meta-data requirements and management of records in a common data base. The session covers contributions highlighting different aspects of the above standardization, as well as the status of CAVM and AVA. The presentations are followed by a discussion on how the resulting data sets can be used for pan-arctic biodiversity assessment and management, specifically CBMP efforts. Further the session will discuss strategies to ensure integration of legacy data sets (e.g. from Russia) and continuity of field assessments and integration to a common data base. A pan-arctic data base of standardized plot-based plant diversity and community data will form the base line for future change assessments and significantly improve predictions of species distribution and ecosystem functioning.

Chair: Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, University of Zurich

Format: Series of presentations followed by discussion


  • Circumpolar arctic vegetation mapping, plot-data archive, classification, and transects: A framework for examining arctic terrestrial change: Donald A. Walker, University of Alaska Fairbanks pdf
  • The next steps for bringing Russian Arctic vegetation datasets into the AVA: Ksenia Ermokhina, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution RAS, Earth Cryosphere Institute SB RAS pdf
  • Classification of the Arctophila fulva wetlands in the Arctic: Natalia Koroleva, Polar-Alpine Botanical Garden Kirovsk pdf
  • Biodiversity, phytomass, and vegetation indices along arctic tundra temperature gradients: Howard E. Epstein, University of Virginia pdf
  • Biodiversity of Canadian Arctic Vascular Plants and Lichens: Field Work, Floristics and Museum Collections: Jeffery Saarela, Canadian Museum of Nature pdf
  • Moderated discussion: Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, University of Zurich 



Circumpolar arctic vegetation mapping, plot-data archive, classification, and transects: A framework for examining arctic terrestrial change 

Donald A. Walker, University of Alaska Fairbanks

A circumpolar arctic-tundra-vegetation framework is needed for a wide variety of purposes including studying and monitoring changes to arctic ecosystems. Difficult logistics limit the number of sampling locations and the quantity of data that can be collected, so it is important that standardized methods of data collection are developed and followed wherever possible. A circumpolar arctic vegetation map (CAVM), arctic vegetation-plot archive, and arctic vegetation classification are priority projects of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council. Here, I present an update on these three activities and two arctic transects that traverse the full bioclimate gradient in North America and Eurasia, utilizing the CAVM and AVC as a framework. The first CAVM was a polygon-based map in GIS format with numerous themes. Several of the CAVM map themes have been widely applied for modeling past vegetation changes and circumpolar biodiversity assessments. A new raster version of the map provides a much higher resolution map and should increase its application for modeling. In Alaska the CAVM is the top level of a seven-level hierarchy of geoecological maps centered on the Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research site at Toolik Lake, AK. Vegetation plot data are the fundamental units of vegetation information used for classification and analysis of environment-vegetation relationships. Approximately 30,000 vegetation plots have been identified for inclusion in a circumpolar AVA and AVC. A prototype arctic vegetation-plot archive was produced for Alaska (the AVA-AK). A Catalog record for each dataset describes the associated research project, purpose and methods of data collection along with links to the Turboveg v2 database and related ancillary data. The database includes the species data standardized according to panarctic taxonomic references and standardized environmental header data. Ancillary data in the Catalog record contain additional information about the datasets, including plot photographs, plot-location maps, the species, soil, and environmental data prior to standardization, as well as relevant publications, data reports, and metadata. The units of the classification are organized according to their associated habitat types, similar to the approach used in the European Vegetation Archive and will use the Braun-Blanquet approach to define and name plant communities. The next step will be to assemble archives similar to the AVA-AK for other regions of the Arctic. Two cross-Arctic transects use the CAVM as a framework sampling: the North America Arctic Transect (NAAT) and the Eurasia Arctic Transect (EAT).


The next steps for bringing Russian Arctic vegetation datasets into the AVA

Ksenia Ermokhina, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution RAS, Earth Cryosphere Institute SB RAS

Vegetation diversity of Russian Arctic is very high due to huge area (about 27 000 000 km2) and large variety of landscapes (Matveeva et al., 2013). According to the preliminary Prodromus of the territory about 130 associations have been recorded within 35 alliances of 21 orders and 19 classes, about 40 new associations have not been placed into higher units (Matveeva et al., 2017). The status of Russian Arctic vegetation datasets owned by several RAS institutes was reviewed as a part of the Arctic Vegetation Archive project. It is estimated that about 5000 relevés are published, much more are in private datasets or even in fieldbooks and have never been digitized. Another important part of information (mainly dated 30 years or even more) is accumulated in archives of scientists that are stored in RAS institutes. The amount of unpublished relevés is hard to assume but surely it is much greater then the number of the published ones. This year the RFBR grant (№ 18-04-01010) for classification of vegetation and spectral analysis of remote sensing imagery for geobotanical division of West Siberian Arctic was received by a group of geobotanists (K. Ermokhina, N. Koroleva, M. Telyatnikov and E. Troeva). The activities that were planned in the proposal include import of regional relevés into the AVA. For this purpose technical support of the authors will be organized. The support will include transformation of Excel tables with relevés and environmental data into AVA format and unification of taxonomic ids according to the Panarctic Species List. Authors’ datasets with geobotanical information from other arctic regions can be also involved in this process. Estimated amount of relevés that are planned for import into the AVA during following three years in frame of this RFBR project is about 2000.


Classification of the Arctophila fulva wetlands in the Arctic

Natalia Koroleva, Polar-Alpine Botanical Garden Kirovsk; E. Kopeina, Polar-Alpine Botanical Garden, Kirovsk, Russia L. Mucina, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia D. Thannheiser, University of Hamburg, Germany D. A. Walker, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA B. Teteryuk, Institute of Biology, Syktyvkar, Russia P. Gogoleva, Geographical-Biological Department, Yakutsk State University, Russia K. Ermokhina, Earth Cryosphere Institute, Moscow, Russia S. Kholod, Komarov Botanical Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia E. Kulyugina, Institute of Biology, Syktyvkar, Russia N. Lashschinskyi, Central Siberian Botanical Garden, Novosibirsk, Russia

We present a classification (using numerical exploratory techniques) of Arctophila fulva (Poaceae) grass-dominated wetlands. 273 phytosociological relevés, some (those them already captured in the Arctic Vegetation Archive database), from Alaska, Northern Canada, Bothnian Gulf (Baltic Sea). Svalbard, northern shores of Norway, and many regions of Russian Federation (Kola Peninsula, Komi Republic, Yamal and Taymyr Peninsulas and Wrangel Island as well as the valleys of Lena, Yana, Indigirka, Kolyma and Anabar Rivers. MERRAclim, a high-resolution global dataset of remotely sensed bioclimatic variables, as well as number of soil-related variables were applied infer the drivers of the plant community patterns. A syntaxonomic scheme of the Arctophila-dominated communities is proposed. All new data will be stored in AVA.


Biodiversity, phytomass, and vegetation indices along arctic tundra temperature gradients

Howard E. Epstein, University of Virginia

The arctic tundra is a circumpolar biome that spans large gradients in climate, geology, and hydrology (including the cryosphere), and hence has a diverse and spatially heterogeneous flora. Whereas numerous efforts have recorded plant species compositions throughout the tundra biome, very few have analyzed the circumpolar spatial patterns in vegetation diversity and abundance (e.g. phytomass). Using Braun-Blanquet relevé data, in addition to field biomass harvests, and hand-held spectroscopy, we analyze the spatial patterns of plant species diversity (alpha, beta, gamma, Shannon-Weiner Index), plant growth form biomass (shrubs, graminoids, forbs, mosses, lichens), and vegetation community spectral indices (e.g. NDVI) along two latitudinal gradients. These gradients span summer warmth index values (SWI – sum of mean monthly temperatures > °C) from approximately 2 – 45 °C months in North American (Alaskan North Slope and the Canadian Archipelago) and Eurasia (Yamal Peninsula, Belyy Ostrov, and Franz Josef Land Archipelago).


Biodiversity of Canadian Arctic Vascular Plants and Lichens: Field Work, Floristics and Museum Collections

J.M. Saarela, L.J. Gillespie, R.T. McMullin, P.C. Sokoloff, R.D. Bull, Centre for Arctic Knowledge and Exploration, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada

Exploration of the flora of the Canadian Arctic has been ongoing for almost two hundred years, yet substantial gaps remain in our floristic understanding of this large, rapidly changing and difficult-to-access region. Detailed information on the diversity and distribution of Arctic plants and lichens at local, regional and global levels is urgently needed to understand the potential impacts of climate change on Arctic flora. Since 2008 we have been conducting floristic surveys in botanically-understudied regions of the Canadian Arctic; lichen exploration began in 2016. In recent years field work has focused on Territorial Parks (Kugluk (Bloody Falls) Territorial Park, proposed Nuvuk Territorial Park, Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park), Quttinirpaaq National Park, and High Arctic field stations. The comprehensive baseline data of our >9,000 new collections, all housed permanently in the National Herbarium of Canada at the Canadian Museum of Nature, and other herbaria in Canada and internationally, adds important baseline knowledge to our understanding of Arctic plant and lichen biodiversity. Our collections include first records for specific areas (e.g., territories, parks, islands), major and minor range extensions, second or third collections of poorly-known species at the northern or southern edges of their ranges, new discoveries of rare species, and they fill in gaps in the known distributions of Arctic species. Information is shared through publication of floristic inventories in the primary literature and via the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). We are also engaged in revision of the tens of thousands of Canadian Arctic specimens housed in the National Herbarium of Canada and herbaria across Canada; this includes confirming or revising determinations, updating nomenclature, databasing and georeferencing. We are working towards a new Arctic Flora of Canada and Alaska, which aims to bring together all available information on the biodiversity and distribution of vascular plants in this region, including keys, descriptions, nomenclature, distribution maps, images and more. Our work addresses Arctic Biodiversity Assessment recommendation 13: “Increase and focus inventory, long-term monitoring and research efforts to address key gaps in scientific knowledge identified in this assessment to better facilitate the development and implementation of conservation and management strategies.” It also contributes to the policy recommendation re: identifying important areas for biodiversity in the Arctic.

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