Variation in frost-boil morphology and associated vegetation characteristics along a climatic gradient

TitleVariation in frost-boil morphology and associated vegetation characteristics along a climatic gradient
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsGould, WA, Quijano, A, González, G, Walker, LA
Conference NameAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting
Date Published12/2003
Conference LocationSan Francisco, CA
Accession NumberLUQ.1123
Keywordsplant ecology

A team of researchers from the US and Canada has been conducting a series of investigations of the interactions of climate, vegetation, and permafrost in the study Biocomplexity of Arctic Frost-Boil Ecosystems. Frost-boils are small-scale patterned ground features formed by the seasonal expansion of ice lenses and the upward movement of soil during annual freeze thaw cycles in permafrost landscapes. The displacement of soils disrupts the vegetation layer, creating a mosaic of barren circular patches and vegetated interboil areas. The morphology of these features and the extent to which vegetation patterns are affected by the displacement varies with climate. We have been working at a network of 11 study sites along a transect from Happy Valley, Alaska to Ellef Ringnes Island, Canada. The project has five major components: Climate and Permafrost, Soils and Biogeochemical Cycling, Vegetation, Ecosystem Modeling, and Education. As part of the education component, students in the class Arctic Field Ecology have been addressing the question of how biodiversity patterns vary between boil and interboil areas within a given site and along the climatic gradient. In order to develop an understanding of variation in frost-boil morphology we analyzed boil and interboil differences in thaw depth, frost-boil width, micro relief, and vegetation cover from a series of 42 transects at six of the Biocomplexity study sites in Alaska and Canada. We present this variation in series of diagrams representing morphology typical of frost-boil patterning along a gradient from low to high arctic and of patterns in vegetation associated with frost boil morphology.