|Title||Fine-scale patterns in thaw depth, micro-relief, and ground cover on non-sorted circles and small patterned ground features along a climatic gradient from low to high arctic|
|Publication Type||Conference Proceedings|
|Year of Publication||2006|
|Authors||Okie, J, Gould, WA, González, G|
|Publisher||American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting|
|Conference Location||San Francisco, CA|
|Keywords||structure and dynamics|
Patterned ground is a ubiquitous feature in the Arctic and the related variation in microtopographic relief strongly affects biotic and abiotic patterns and processes. Patterned ground features are polygenic in origin and are often found superimposed in a complex pattern of multiple features. We investigated the relationship between thaw depth, micro-relief, the cover of vascular, bryophyte, cryptogamic crust and bare ground along transects traversing non-sorted circles and small non-sorted polygons at 8 research sites along a climatic gradient in bioclimatic subzones A-E in the North American Arctic. Non-sorted circles are the result of differential frost heave with circle centers typically showing greater heave during freezing than inter circle areas. Differential heave is a function of climate, soil texture, soil moisture, and vegetation cover. Differential heave and subsidence creates fine-scale gradients in microtopography that affect soil moisture, exposure to winds, and development of vegetation and soils. Non-sorted circles typically range from 20 to 200 cm in diameter and are most common in subzones C-E. Often superimposed on these features are the development of small non-sorted polygons 10-30 cm in diameter, and fine-scale desiccation cracking at a scale of less than 10 cm. These are most common in subzones A-C. We established three 20 m transects in zonal vegetation at each site. Thaw depth, micro-relief, and ground cover were measured at 10 cm intervals along each transect. Additionally, we measured vascular plant beta diversity in a set of 25 x 25 cm quadrates on 15 circles and 15 inter circles at each site. The resulting pattern of thaw depth and micro-relief is correlated with both summer temperatures and vegetation cover. The variability and degree of micro-relief decrease from the Low to the High Arctic. Non-sorted circle centers had deeper active layer than inter circle areas along the gradient. Thaw depths increase linearly with the degree of bare ground and nonlinearly with summer warmth. This unimodal pattern of shallower active layer at the warmest and coldest sites is due to the interaction of climate and the insulating vegetation layer. Greatest thaw depths are found on bare non-sorted circles in subzone C. Beta diversity is greatest in subzone D, where vegetated inter circle areas differ markedly from more barren non- sorted circles.