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Plants in the Arctic Region

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1 Plants in the Arctic Region
Changes in the Landscape over time Presented by Marie Silver

2 Map of Antarctica The majority of the Antarctic continent is covered by permanent ice and snow leaving less than 1% available for colonization by plants. Most of this ice and snow-free land is found along the Antarctic Peninsula, its associated islands and in coastal regions around the edge of the rest of the Antarctic continent. Even in the most inhospitable ice-free habitats, such as inland mountains and nunataks, life can still be found.

3 Antarctica Characteristics
Covered in ice and snow – little land for plant colonization “Summer growing season” (Dec. – Feb.) near freezing. High winds all year round A virtual desert inland, several meters of snow fall along coast annually No trees or shrubs, only two species flowering plants,( in South Orkney Islands, the South Shetland Islands and western Antarctic Peninsula.) Moss and lichen in wetter areas. Greatest species diversity along western side of Antarctic Peninsula, where climate is generally warmer and wetter. Temps near freezing in summer (December-February), In winter, monthly mean temps near coast between -10°C and -30°C, inland average winter temperature at South Pole -60°C / -76°F. Temps fall as you leave the coast and as continent slopes upwards. Temp. at Vostok station -89.2°C / °F (lowest recorded on earth). High wind also large factor in climate - Average wind speed:37 kmh / 23 mph, maximum recorded gust: kmh / 154 mph Distribution of precipitation very marked, several meters of snow annually fall along coast but interior annual snowfall of a few centimeters, making much of the continent a desert. After the snow has fallen it will be redistributed by the winds, particularly in the coastal areas where the downslope katabic winds can be in excess of 40 kts for long periods of time

4 Most ice and snow-free land is found along the Antarctic Peninsula, associated islands, in coastal regions around the continent edge. There are no trees or shrubs, and only two species of flowering plants, Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis) are found, occurring on the South Orkney Islands, the South Shetland Islands and along the western Antarctic Peninsula. The vegetation is predominantly made up of lower plant groups (mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi) which are specially adapted to surviving in extreme environments, in particular, tolerating low temperatures and dehydration. There are, in total, around 100 species of mosses, 25 species of liverworts, 300 to 400 species of lichens and 20-odd species of macro-fungi. The greatest diversity of species is found along the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula where the climate is generally warmer and wetter than elsewhere in the Antarctic continent. Certain species of moss and lichen, however, have a widespread distribution and others specialize in surviving in very extreme conditions. In the dry valleys of Victoria Land, for example, where it is very dry and extremely cold, algae, fungi and lichens are found living in cracks and pore spaces inside the sandstone and two species flowering plants, Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis) Vegetation predominantly lower plant groups (mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi) specially adapted to surviving in extreme environments, in particular, tolerating low temperatures and dehydration. Certain species of moss and lichen, however, have a widespread distribution and others specialize in surviving in very extreme conditions. About 100 species of mosses, 25 species of liverworts, 300 to 400 species of lichens and 20-odd species of macro-fungi are adapted to the environment.

5 Plant Life in the Antarctic Region
Antarctic Pearlwort Colobanthus quitensis Hairgrass Deschampsia antarctica Tussock Grass, Falkland Islands Lichens, Verrucaria, Xanthoria, Turgidosculum (Mastodia), Lecanora Mosses, Muelleriella crassifolia Tussock Grass Puccinellia macquariensis Photographs by Rob Seppelt

6 Map of Arctic Region

7 The colors on the map indicate the differences that occur in the general outward appearance of vegetation (physiognomy). The CAVM team grouped more than 400 described plant communities into 15 physiognomic units based on plant growth forms. An international team of arctic vegetation scientists representing the six countries of the Arctic—Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the United States—prepared the map. Fairbanks, Alaska, USA By Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Mapping Team Contact Donald A. Walker

8 Basic Biomes Taiga Tundra

9 Tundra Tundra Tundra, from Finnish word tunturi, meaning treeless plain Extremely cold climate Winter -60 F (-51 C) Summer 32 F (0 C) to 50 F (10 C) > 55 days per year with a mean temperature higher than 32 F (0 C). Low biotic diversity Simple vegetation structure Limitation of drainage Short season of growth and reproduction – 6-10 weeks Energy and nutrients in the form of dead organic material Large population oscillations Annual precipitation > 10” year Plants: low lying, small leaved, shallow rooted. Mosses, grasses, herbs, lichens and small shrubs. Soil often frozen, permafrost (permanent ice) within a meter of surface. Tundra soils thick layers of partly decomposed plant material due to low temperatures which prevent rapid decay. In wet conditions peat deposits several meters thick may accumulate. (these soils and mires represent an important sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide.) Flowering plants; purple saxifrage, mountain avens, wild crocus, arctic poppies, buttercups, cinquefoil, moss campion, campanulas, arctic azaleas and arctic lupine.

10 Tundra Landscape Tussock Sedge, dwarf shrub, moss Low Shrub
High Arctic mostly moss followed by sedges and the small amounts of forbs and grasses, Low arctic (edge nearer taiga) higher amounts of evergreen and deciduous shrubs, mosses. Still low amounts of forbs and grasses. Sedge grass, moss wetland Low grass, forbs, low shrub

11 Tundra Plants Purple Saxifrage, Saxifraga oppositifolia
Arctic Willow, Salix arctica Arctic Moss, Calliergon giganteum Reindeer Lichen / Caribou Moss, Cladonia rangiferina

12 Tundra Plant Facts Often reproduce by rootstocks or runner
Grow in clumps to create microclimates May bloom from buds that are one to two years old Seed may germinate and grow while still attached to parent plant Similar to desert plants, aerial parts reduced in favor of root mass, larger roots capable of storing enough energy and minerals to allow instant growth in spring Refer to the Tundra Adaptations sheet

13 Taiga Found in regions of subarctic and cold continental climate. Long, severe winters (six months with mean temperatures below freezing), short summers (50 to 100 frost-free days) Dominant species: tamarack, spruce, fir, mosses, ferns. Typically needle leaf plants adapted to cold and drought Sparse food supply, supports fewer animal species than a more deciduous dominant system (fewer than tundra environment) Expedition to Siberia: ( As Earth’s temperature rises, what is happening to the great northern forests of Siberia? Thick stands of spruce, pine, aspen, and larch trees occupy a vast stretch of land across northern Asia and Europe, straddling roughly half of the Arctic Circle. Will the trees in this ecosystem (called taiga) begin to grow faster and to gradually extend their reach farther north into the treeless tundra, as some scientists predict? Or will hotter, drier conditions stress the trees, thereby inhibiting growth and leaving the forest prone to invasive species and wildfires, as new evidence suggests? A small international team of scientists from NASA and Russia’s Academy of Science are going to find answers. Beginning July 28, 2007, the team of six remote sensing and forest ecosystem scientists will head to Siberia to find out…

14 Taiga Plants White and Black Spruce Picea glauca, Picea mariana
Jack Pine, Pinus banksiana W/B Spruce grow best in lower temps, (60 deg or lower) may initially colonize the tundra as climate shifts but eventually are seen to die back Jack Pine adapted to dry conditions often germinate after fires Balsam Fir, Abies balsamia

15 Linking the Arctic to Your Curriculum
Arctic plant study, comparing biomes (e,g, tundra to bog, arctic tundra to alpine tundra) Antarctic plant study, cold desert versus warm desert Plant adaptations in general, growing seasons Climate Change, what can plants teach us, which plant communities most vulnerable Plant Adaptations - what are the phases of a plant’s life cycle, how does each phase affect animal populations in an area, what role does sunlight, angle of sun play in the phases of a plant’s life, how does temperature, rainfall, snowfall affect the growth of plants. Comparing plants found in arctic region to your local area. Comparison of plant characteristics in Antarctica to similar ones in desert regions in the U.S. Phenology –what changes have occurred in the timing of flowering, budding or leaf drop in your area, how does this compare to other parts of the U.S. or world, how vulnerable are certain habitats to global warming Succession – which abiotic/biotic factors control the success of a species found in a chosen study site, how does soil nutrient level, soil moisture affect the diversity of species in an area, what species dominate in your area, can you tell what stage you are in successionally, how do the stages witnessed in Glacier Bay compare to those found in your area, how will global climate change affect plant species type and diversity in your area, how does this compare to arctic regions. how do plants opportunistically convert a hostile area into a hospitable one. How does this phenomenon relate to a shift from tundra to forest or meadow to forest (how does it connect to warming conditions in the arctic?) Lichenometry – when did the glaciers recede locally, how old is this rock, how long does it take under certain conditions for plant colonies to appear (lichens initially) on bare rock Dendrochronology – what can the growth patterns of a tree tell us about the environment around it, what can trees tell us about history, environmental change, how can tree rings be correlated with other data about the surrounding environment. New York Times article on Vermont

16 Suggested Disciplines for Inquiry
Plant Adaptations – Studying plant responses to cold temperatures, low moisture conditions, short growing seasons. Phenology - studying timing of recurring natural phenomena in response to seasonal and climatic changes to the environment. Succession - the observed process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time Lichenometry - a method of numerical dating that uses the size of lichen colonies on a rock surface to determine the surface's age. Lichenometry is used for rock surfaces less than about 10,000 years old. Dendrochronology/ Dendroclimatology - using tree rings to analyze temporal and spatial patterns of various processes (biological, physical, or cultural) - the study of tree rings to infer past climatic conditions, based on recent growth-climate relations. Plant Community Comparisons, plants as indicators of climate change, Using fast plants to demonstrate important arctic plant adaptation: quick to germinate when snow melts, will often not flower but go strait to root stock..

17 Comparing Biomes Temperate Deciduous Tundra Bog Taiga
Deserts as compared to bare rock areas or very recently de-glaciated

18 Northern Temperate Early plants boreal or taiga (relicts of this remain, e.g. Tamarack, ground pine, mosses) Typical forest plant combinations include mixed deciduous (maple, oak, nut trees) and pine, flowering shrubs and grasses (generally shade tolerant species of all kinds) Meadows, grasslands - soil tends to be deep and fertile, three types of grassland, tall, mixed grass and short. Grasslands often managed through fire or grazing. Largest areas in the U.S., found in the midwest where extreme weather (cold winters, hot summers) predominates. Continental glaciers receded 10, ,000 years ago Early climate (after glaciers) cool and moist, followed by warmer drier periods. Average temperatures of 50 degrees F. Contrast to Glacier Bay – 250 years ago

19 Bog Open or sparsely treed wetland area poor in mineral nutrients, water supplied exclusively by precipitation; typically acidic. Found in variety of successional stages including tundra, taiga and deciduous/climax forests. Plant species and soil composition similar to tundra. Like arctic, unique and demanding physical and chemical characteristics of bogs result in plant communities with special adaptations to low nutrient levels, waterlogged conditions, and acidic waters, e.g. carnivorous plants. Plants: sphagnum moss, cotton grass, cranberry, blueberry, pine, Labrador tea, and tamarack.

20 Areas of Inquiry: Plant Adaptations
Using fast plants to explore: How plants adapt to cold, dry conditions, sun angle, boggy conditions, high winds, short growing season Research “strategies” plants have developed to succeed, dispersal mechanisms, nitrogen utilization, faster germination, longer life cycles Comparing and contrasting plants in temperate areas, deserts, sub-tropical areas to Arctic and Antarctic regions See Alaska Plant Growth handout; Using fast plants to demonstrate important arctic plant adaptation: quick to germinate when snow melts, will often not flower but go straight to root stock..

21 Resources Research progress on climate change impacts in the Siberian Taiga Woods Hole Research Center provides current research on critical habitats Wisconsin Fastplants official website BluePlanet Biomes provides plant lists for tundra, taiga other ecosystems,

22 Phenology – Background from the Greek phainomai, "to appear"
Historical context Thomas Jefferson – Monticello Early 1900’s – Dr. McKay – Thousand Eyes Project, Smithsonian flowering study, Aldo Leopold, Japanese Cherry Blossoms Recent Work Cornell Lilac Study and Project Budbreak, Oregon State University Phenology Project, USA – NPN, Univ. of Wisconsin, Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity Student Participation Projects Project GLOBE, Project Budburst, PlantWatch, Earth Alive Earliest record keeping – Japan in Kyoto since 9th century – long period from 11th century until 14th century colder than the average, while the years since have been characterized by earlier blooming Large body of work in Canada – Thousand Eyes, Plant Watch Dr. Alexander MacKay, Superintendent of Schools, required schools across Nova Scotia to collect data on both plan and animal phenology Called the father of Phenology, Robert Marsham began recording his 'Indications of Spring' starting in 1736 on his family estate near Norwich, Norfolk. Family kept on through 1958 Aldo Leopold – nature journals including timing of plant growth Peterson and Shetler, Smithsonian Biologists compared flowering data for cherry trees from 1912 forward Recent articles: (Cornell and Wisconsin) Early Blooming Lilacs are a sign of spring; and global warming –

23 Phenology Resources Articles and Links
“Warming Trend Spells Early Arrival of Spring”, Rebecca James, Syracuse Post Standard, 12/19/04 Phenology, The Study Of Nature's Cycles Of Life, Nat’l Sustainable Agriculture Info Service, Phenology links, The USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) facilitates collection and dissemination of phenological data to support global change research. Backyard Nature: Phenology, Noting When Things Happen, "Early-blooming lilacs are a sign of spring; and global warming", Desert News (Salt Lake City),  Dec 16, 2004  by William Kates Associated Press Lilac Data Sets: Schwartz, M.D. and J.M. Caprio, 2003,North American First Leaf and First Bloom Lilac Phenology Data, IGBP PAGES/World Data Center for Paleoclimatology Data Contribution Series # NOAA/NGDC Paleoclimatology Program, Boulder CO, National Center for Atmospheric Research, 2005, ITEX – established in late 1990 at a meeting of arctic tundra ecologists as a response to predictions that the human-enhanced greenhouse warming would occur earliest and most intensely at high latitudes. The initial objective of ITEX was to monitor phenology, growth and reproduction in major circumpolar vascular plant species in response to climate variations and environmental manipulations at sites throughout the tundra biome. The manipulations involve passive warming of tundra plots in open-top chambers (OTCs), and manipulating snow depth to alter growing season length. One finding - that species having a delayed flowering respond more readily to global warming than species having an already optimized flowering The only existing study from the tundra biome of which we are aware, and which is based on 10 or more years, is the 11-yr monitoring of flowering phenology in central Iceland (subarctic–alpine) by Thórhallsdóttir (1998) . However, the phenological stage of the flora at the site was assessed only once per year, in early July, and the proportion of species in flower at that time was correlated with climatic variables and snow conditions

24 Phenology Resources, Cont.
Student Involvement in Phenology Project Budburst, students collect data on plant life cycle stages and participate in a national database collection effort, The Globe Program, classes participate using established protocol, monitoring environmental changes includes Project Budburst, Lilac Project, Hummingbird Migration, Green up and Green down, Arctic Bird Migration, (contact Betty Connor, North Star Borough School District, Fairbanks AK, Blooming Thermometers, activity demonstrating environmental affect on plant life cycles, NCAR, Climate Discovery Teachers Guide. Earth Alive: Plantwatch: contains protocol, teacher guides and lessons

25 Changes in Arctic Plant Dominance
Ecological succession" the observed process of change in species structure of an ecological community over time. Within any community some species may become less abundant over some time interval, or they may even vanish from the ecosystem altogether. Similarly, over some time interval, other species in the community may become more abundant, or new species enter the community from adjacent ecosystems. This observed change over time is "ecological succession".

26 From Tundra to Forest Exploring what a warming arctic region can mean for plant life What kind of work has been done on this subject (Glacier Bay, The Tundra Project) Comparing change in the arctic region to change closer to home Recent article - ( Chile, Europe) Study: Global warming chasing plants uphill of 171 species studies, 118 had moved uphill Recent studies showing, increased compression of tundra between arctic ocean and taiga Article from Julie B-G Tundra – Green is the New Black

27 Natural History of Glacier Bay
Warming increases nitrogen mineralization (and longer growing season) favors shrub species over other plant forms within 200 years. After 200 years new plant forms predominate, often those not normally found in the arctic environment. Bay is laboratory for study of ice-recessional phenomena and post-glacial biotic succession, under ice 250 years ago, recent ice retreat observed and well documented. Except higher elevations, retreating ice revealed extensive land and coastal area Key Findings: moist lowland - post-glacial barrens succeed from tundra, through shrub land to young forest in 250 years; Plant colonization takes only a few years, early vegetation mat is long-lasting with change occurring primarily in response to physical changes, e.g slope and drainage, rather than biological changes, such as competition; Issues – invasives altering classical succession, climate change will also

28 Recent Research on Glacial Recession/Climate Change
Earlier hypotheses –White Spruce trees continue as dominant taiga species may be false (strong adaptation to cool wet conditions) Tundra Biome becomes increasingly compressed between Boreal and Arctic Ocean Certain species, habitats highly vulnerable to changes in temperature/moisture/snow cover Invasives may complicate species adaptations Recent Research suggests that thawing permafrost destabilizes soil (tress fall over, sink holes develop), wetlands and ponds may drain, Precipitation may increase overall but at times when plants cant use it Insect populations may shift, e.g bark beetles may thrive, spruce bud worms Some species may not be able to compete with warm adapted invasives. Increasing Shrubbification, early change to spruce in tundra, later dies back..

29 Succession Movie

30 Comparing Glacier Bay/Arctic to Your Region
How does the transition occurring in Glacier Bay compare to transitions found in your region such as: Farm meadow to forest Lake to swamp Swamp to meadow What are most important factors for plant community transitions (succession) in your area as compared to the Arctic (fire, climate, human intervention)

31 Succession Resources Activities Articles
Tundra to Taiga Board Game: A modification of the Floristic Relay game, Biological Succession in a Macro and Microecosystem –lab exercises using microbes Ecosystems and Climate Activities – using fastplants or other quick germinating seeds to demonstrate succession (University of Illinois) Glaciers of Kenai Fjords, Activities exploring relationship between ecological and geographical chance and glaciation, National Park Service, Alaska, Articles Gastaldo, R.A., DiMichele, W.A.,and Pfefferkorn, H.W. Out of the Icehouse into the Greenhouse: A Late Paleozoic Analogue for Modern Global Vegetational Change: GSA today v. 10, p. 1-7. Climate Change and Biodiversity in the Arctic-Nordic Perspectives, Phillip A Wookey. Conference; Melting Ice – A Hot Topic Duke Forest Succession, Succession in Michigan Forests,

32 How Polar Scientists Use Lichenometry
Early work in Lichenometry - geologic dating of substrates Current: primarily used for corroboration or for recently receding glaciers (past 500 years) Other applications – historic sites, biological indicators Lichen can be preserved on old rock faces for up to 10,000 years, providing the maximum age limit of the technique. The use of lichenometry is of increased value for dating deposited surfaces over the past 500 years as radiocarbon dating techniques are less efficient over this period. Among the potential problems of the technique are the difficulty of correctly identifying the species, delay between exposure and colonization, varying growth rates from region to region as well as the fact that growth rates are not always constant over time, dependence of the rate of growth upon substrate texture and composition, climate and finally, actually finding the biggest one. Lichenometry has been used widely in the Rocky Mountains for dating Holocene moraines and other rock surfaces. Luckman and Osborn (1979) and Osborn (1985) found lichenometry can provide absolute ages for relatively young (less than 500-year old) glacial deposits in the Canadian Rockies, but only relative ages for older neoglacial deposits.

33 Activities and Articles: Lichenometry
Using Lichenometry in human history applications “Lichens, Lichenometry and Global Warming” by Richard Armstrong. Microbiologist, Sept 2004 Using Lichenometric data curves in Southern Norway to date rocks Dating glacial Landforms using Lichenometry Activities Lichenometry: An Accessible Method for Dating Recent History (Geological and Manmade) Studying an Alaskan Glacier using Lichenometry

34 Other Resources Biomes of the World,
A Natural History of Glacier Bay, Arctic Geobotanical Atlas Antarctic Background, Activities


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