Inventorying Arctic Vegetation
TOOLIK FIELD STATION, ALASKA– To understand how the Arctic tundra changes over time, we are inventorying long-term vegetation plots established in the vicinity of Toolik Lake nearly twenty years ago.
We will compare the plant community composition (or variety and abundance of different plant species) of the initial survey to the data we are collecting now. This allows us to see how the quantity and variety of plants here have changed over the past decades. We will monitor these changes in groups of plants such as shrubs, herbs, grasses and lichens.
To inventory the vegetation we use the ‘point-frame method’, where a one square meter frame is placed above the plot on legs sunk deep into the tundra. The point-frame contains a grid of fishing line that forms 100 points placed every 5 centimeters. At each of these points, we identify the top and bottom plant species, the plant height, whether the plant is living, and, for woody plants, if the part of the plant at that point is vegetative or woody. Occasionally, we must diverge from the task to identify unknown plants.
In this video meet my field partners, Joel and Sayuri, as they proceed with the inventory amidst the rolling tundra, mosquitoes and a resident Lapland Longspur.
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