Changes in vegetation distribution are underway in Arctic and boreal regions due to climate warming and associated fire disturbance. These changes have wide ranging downstream impacts—affecting wildlife habitat, nutrient cycling, climate feedbacks and fire regimes. It is thus critical to understand where these changes are occurring and what types of vegetation are affected, and to quantify the magnitude of the changes. In this study, we mapped live aboveground biomass for five common plant functional types (PFTs; deciduous shrubs, evergreen shrubs, forbs, graminoids and lichens) within Alaska and northwest Canada, every five years from 1985 to 2020. We employed a multi-scale approach, scaling from field harvest data and unmanned aerial vehicle-based biomass predictions to produce wall-to-wall maps based on climatological, topographic, phenological and Landsat spectral predictors. We found deciduous shrub and graminoid biomass were predicted best among PFTs. Our time-series analyses show increases in deciduous (37%) and evergreen shrub (7%) biomass, and decreases in graminoid (14%) and lichen (13%) biomass over a study area of approximately 500 000 km2. Fire was an important driver of recent changes in the study area, with the largest changes in biomass associated with historic fire perimeters. Decreases in lichen and graminoid biomass often corresponded with increasing shrub biomass. These findings illustrate the driving trends in vegetation change within the Arctic/boreal region. Understanding these changes and the impacts they in turn will have on Arctic and boreal ecosystems will be critical to understanding the trajectory of climate change in the region.
Climate change, including both increasing temperatures and changing snow regimes, is progressing rapidly in the Arctic, leading to changes in plant phenology and in the seasonal patterns of plant properties, such as tissue nitrogen (N) content and community aboveground biomass. However, significant knowledge gaps remain over how these seasonal patterns vary among Arctic plant functional groups (i.e., shrubs, grasses, and forbs) and across large geographical areas. We used three years of in situ field vegetation sampling from an 80,000‐km2area in Arctic Alaska, remotely sensed vegetation data (daily normalized difference vegetation index [NDVI]), and modeled output of snow‐free date to determine and model the seasonal trends and primary controls on leaf percent nitrogen and biomass (in grams per square meter) among Arctic vegetation functional groups. We determined relative vegetation phenology stage at a 500‐m spatial scale resolution, defined as the number of days between the date of the seasonal maximum NDVI and the vegetation field sampling date, and relative snow phenology stage (90‐m spatial scale) was determined as the number of days between the date of snow‐free ground and the sampling date. Models including relative phenology stage were particularly important for explaining seasonal variability of %N in shrubs, graminoids, and forbs. Similarly, vegetation and snow phenology stages were also important for modeling seasonal biomass of shrubs and graminoids; however, for all functional groups, the models explained only a small amount of seasonal variability in biomass. Relative phenology stage was a stronger predictor of %N and biomass than geographic position, indicating that localized controls on phenology, acting at spatial scales of 500 m and smaller, are critical to understanding %N and biomass.more » « less
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- Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
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- Medium: X
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- National Science Foundation
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