Question: What are the major vegetation units in the Arctic, what is their composition, and how are they distributed among major bioclimate subzones and countries?
Location: The Arctic tundra region, north of the tree line.
Methods: A photo-interpretive approach was used to delineate the vegetation onto an Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) base image. Mapping experts within nine Arctic regions prepared draft maps using geographic information technology (ArcInfo) of their portion of the Arctic, and these were later synthesized to make the final map. Area analysis of the map was done according to bioclimate subzones, and country. The integrated mapping procedures resulted in other maps of vegetation, topography, soils, landscapes, lake cover, substrate pH, and above-ground biomass.
Results: The final map was published at 1:7 500 000 scale map. Within the Arctic (total area = 7.11 × 106 km2), about 5.05 × 106 km2 is vegetated. The remainder is ice covered. The map legend generally portrays the zonal vegetation within each map polygon. About 26% of the vegetated area is erect shrublands, 18% peaty graminoid tundras, 13% mountain complexes, 12% barrens, 11% mineral graminoid tundras, 11% prostrate-shrub tundras, and 7% wetlands. Canada has by far the most terrain in the High Arctic mostly associated with abundant barren types and prostrate dwarf-shrub tundra, whereas Russia has the largest area in the Low Arctic, predominantly low-shrub tundra.
Conclusions: The CAVM is the first vegetation map of an entire global biome at a comparable resolution. The consistent treatment of the vegetation across the circumpolar Arctic, abundant ancillary material, and digital database should promote the application to numerous land-use, and climate-change applications and will make updating the map relatively easy.
Abbreviations: AVHRR = Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer; CAVM = Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map; CIR = False colour-infrared; DCW = Digital Chart of the World; PAF = Panarctic Flora initiative.