Vegetation is a critical component of Arctic ecosystems. Plants, as primary producers, produce essential resources to support other Arctic species. In turn, the structure and composition of Arctic vegetation is largely determined by the direct and indirect influences of key biotic and abiotic drivers and soil biodiversity.

The key abiotic drivers affecting vegetation change in the Arctic are: climate (temperature, length of growing season, precipitation, etc.); cloud cover; solar radiation; site characteristics (soils, permafrost, soil moisture, topography etc.); and hydrology and natural disturbance (fire and landslides, etc.)

Anthropogenic disturbances and land use including infrastructure, waste, contamination and pollution, and nutrient enrichment also affect vegetation. In some areas of the Arctic, grazing and trampling from domesticated reindeer, overabundant waterfowl, and travel and tourism are also considerable stressors. While over 100 non-native species have been found in the Arctic, no species is yet considered invasive, though there is threat that some may become invasive with climate change.

In response to these drivers, vegetation can change in terms of: phenology; species interactions; species ranges; community composition; dominance; and productivity

Photo: Serg Zastavkin/Shutterstock.com Photo: jele/shutterstock.com


What does the Terrestrial Vegetation Expert network do?

The CBMP Vegetation Expert Network is tasked with advising on how to implement the vegetation aspects of the CBMP Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Montoring Plan. This includes: 

  • communicating information on monitoring programs and approaches
  • recommending monitoring protocols, monitoring approach, and study design which leads to a harmonized, integrated circumpolar monitoring program
  • integrating empirical science and traditional knowledge
  • data access, integration, analysis and reporting related to CBMP Focal Ecosystem Component attributes
  • providing information to support integrated ecosystem-based management of Arctic wildlife and resources
  • ensuring that plan implementation is as relevant as possible to sub-national, national, regional and circumpolar priorities and decision-making
  • ensuring that plan implementation adds value and is coordinated with other Arctic terrestrial vegetation monitoring activities
  • being a forum for sharing progress related to the implementation of the vegetation section of the CBMP-Terrestrial plan and discuss implications for participating countries and regions
  • advance solutions to common issues relevant to Arctic terrestrial vegetation monitoring
  • planning and conducting communications with various groups and committees at the national, regional and local levels

What does the CBMP say about terrestrial vegetation monitoring?

The CBMP Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Montoring Plan details key vegetation components for monitoring, including trees, shrubs, forbs, graminoids, mosses, and lichens, as well as food species, species of special concern and non-native species. The following attributes of these components are earmarked as essential, i.e., they give scientists the basic information needed to provide insights in to ecosystem change. Other attributes are recommended. For a complete and detailed list please see the Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Montoring Plan.

Essential attributes for most species of tree, shrub, forbs, graminoids, mosses and lichens:

  • diversity (species richness, alpha/beta/gamma diversity, community composition) 
  • abundance (percent cover, density, number of plants/units, etc.) 
  • composition (vertical and horizontal structure of plant species; morphology, canopy structure, etc.)
  • spatial structure (distribution of communities, total area by community, clumping, fragmentation, connectivity, location) 
  • productivity (biomass, photography, remote sensing) 
  • phenology (timing of growth, flowering, senescence) 

Essential attributes for food species:

  • phenology (timing of growth, flowering, senescence)
  • productivity and biomass (as for most plants above; nutrient content)

Essential attributes for species of special concern:

  • abundance (population size, numbers, presence/absence)
  • spatial structure (location)

Essential attributes for non-native species:

  • abundance and spatial structure (presence/absence of species, population sizes, location, cover)
  • composition (vertical and horizontal structure of plant species; morphology, canopy structure, etc.)


Terrestrial Vegetation Expert Network Members

  • Canada: Brenda McAfee, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Greg Henry
  • Iceland: Starri Heiðmarsson, Iceland Institute of Natural History
  • Norway: Virve Ravolainen, Norwegian Polar Institute, Herbivory Network
  • Sweden: Mora Aronsson, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, ArtDatabanken/Swedish Species Information Center
  • US: Sarah Elmendorf, National Ecological Observatory Network and Jason Taylor, National Parks Service
  • Russia: Vladimir Razzhivin, Botanial Garden of the V.L. Komorov Botanial Institute

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