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Relief and vegetation dynamics in polar ecosystems (GeoDendro)

To predict the extent of plant cover alterations under the impact of climate change in the High Arctic environments, the knowledge about how arctic species respond to changing habitat conditions is crucial. This project goals in determining, on the example of alluvial fans, if Arctic vegetation patterns depend on gravitational and fluvial morphog

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Project date

Starts
2012-07-01

Ends
2013-09-30

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Project Keywords

  • biosphere / ecological dynamics / community dynamics
  • cryosphere / frozen ground / periglacial processes
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Summary

To predict the extent of plant cover alterations under the impact of climate change in the High Arctic environments, the knowledge about how arctic species respond to changing habitat conditions is crucial. This project goals in determining, on the example of alluvial fans, if Arctic vegetation patterns depend on gravitational and fluvial morphogenesis, and in providing a temporal scale for relief and plant cover dynamics by using dendrochronological method. Dendrochronology can be applied to all wooden plants which are able to produce annual rings as well as to some herbs (Schweingruber 1996). Tundra dwarf shrubs, e. g. Salix polaris and Dryas octopetala, can be used for environmental reconstructions, such as dating past and present geomorphic processes (e.g. debris flows, solifluction and other periglacial processes) and therefore this method is suitable for the analysis of relief and plant cover dynamics. While the dendrochronological potential of dwarf shrubs in such reconstructions has been proved, arctic herbs forming distinct annual rings has not been taken into account before. Within this project, the herb-chronological potential of Saxifraga oppositifolia will be investigated in order to provide a method of analyzing relief changes within sites that are devoid of dwarf shrubs. This particular species has been chosen because of its pioneer character and ability to colonize even the most unstable sites. For these studies, the central part of the Spitsbergen Island was chosen, and the research will be carried out in the Ebba Valley (Petuniabukta area, Dickson Land).

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