Need for a New Map.
During the next few decades the Arctic will be
strongly affected by many forces from within and outside the region including
global climate change, cumulative impacts of resource development, native
population increases, and tourists. The relatively simple and fragile
ecosystems could be dramatically altered through changes to the vegetation,
wetland destruction, and thawing of ice-rich permafrost. This could
have important consequences to the wildlife resources and to the native
peoples within the Arctic, as well as feedbacks to the global hydrological
and atmospheric systems.
A new vegetation map would provide a common legend
and language for ecosystems of the Arctic region. Such a map is needed
for a wide variety of purposes related to anticipated global changes, land-use
planning, and education.
Production of a new circumpolar Arctic vegetation
map (CAVM) is now underway. In March 1992, an international workshop
on Classification of Circum polar Arctic Vegetation was held in Boulder,
Colorado. The participants recognized that knowledge of Arctic vegetation
has increased dramatically in recent years and no single existing classification
or map accurately portrayed the synthesis of existing knowledge.
The attendees agreed to compile, edit, and publish a CAVM depicting the
distribution and boundaries of Arctic vegetation north of the Arctic treeline
at a scale of approximately 1:7,500,000. There was no means, however, to
accomplish this goal until a new program came into existence.
Synchronously, yet independently of the Boulder
Workshop, delegates from eight Arctic countries met at the first Conservation
of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) workshop in Ottawa, Canada. The
CAFF program is a component of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy,
adopted by ministerial declaration in 1991 in Rovaniemi, Finland, by the
eight Arctic countries: Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway,
Russia, Sweden, and the United States. The CAFF represents a distinct
international forum of scientists, resource managers, indigenous peoples,
and conservationists sharing information on Arctic species and habitats.
As lead agency for the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
primarily through Regional Director David B. Allen, saw value in the Boulder
Workshop proposal and worked toward coordinating the project. Toward
this goal two international workshops have been held, in St. Petersburg,
Russia and Arendal, Norway, to (1) lay the foundation for making a new
circumpolar map, (2) formulate a strategy for making a vegetation map database,
and (3) develop a framework for the vegetation map legend.
Scope and goals of the CAVM project
The circumpolar Arctic vegetation mapping project
will provide a variety of mapped vegetation information fo
r the arctic tundra and polar desert region based on our most recent
scientific understanding. The project will be confined to the region
the Arctic treeline. This region has clear climatic and
ecological boundaries as well as many common political, cultural, and scientific
hat need to be addressed. By limiting the project to the Arctic
tundra region, the project has a clear focus, a relatively small and well-defined
group of regional experts who will do the mapping, and relatively small
area for which the mapping protocols and legends can be developed.
essential to keep the budget constrained and produce useful products
within a short time frame. It is expected that once the arctic tundra
is mapped, it will be easy to expand the mapping effort into
areas south of treeline. The project will produce three products
at a scale of 1:7,5
- A photo-quality cloud-free and snow-free false-color infrared
image of the circumpolar region derived from satellite imagery. This
needed as a base map on which to draw vegetation boundaries.
It will also be the first view of the actual terrain of the entire Arctic,
will have a wide variety of applications for arctic science and education.
The product will be derived from a time series mosaic of Advanced Very
High Resolution (AVHRR) images with 1-km picture elements.
- A map of the relative vegetation greenness of the circumpolar
region as portrayed by the maximum normalized difference vegetation index.
ar products have been prepared for the globe and North America and
are extremely useful for examining spatial patterns of biomass production
r modeling the effects of climate change. This will be derived
from a mosaic of AVHRR images. These first two products are nearing
d the products should be published within a year.
- A geobotanical database and derived maps of the circumpolar
arctic tundra and polar desert region. The database will consist
of an integrated
map coded with landscape and vegetation information as interpreted
on an AVHRR base map. Terrain units will be delineated on the basis
of seven la
ndscape factors: landscape unit, surficial geology, percentage cover
of lakes, moisture status, depth of organic soil layers, soil texture,
l chemistry. Vegetation information will be coded according to
six variables: phytogeographic zone, floristic sector, horizontal structure,
nt plant growth forms, dominant plant communities, and characteristic
Several recent international programs have recognized
the special importance of the Arctic. In the United States, the Arctic
System Science progra
m of the National Science Foundation is developing an integrated program
of scientific research that involves the marine, terrestrial, atmospheric,
paleoenvironmental, and human aspects of the Arctic as they are
related to global change. The International Arctic Science Committee
and the CAFF
project have recognized the CAVM as a priority research item,
and numerous organizations including the United Nations Educational Program
esource Information Database at Arendal, Norway are devoted to developing
spatial databases for the circumpolar region. Many ongoing circumpolar
atabase efforts, such as the new environmental atlas of Russia and
the proposed circumpolar ecoregions mapping project, will require accurate
al vegetation information based on the latest scientific knowledge.
Project Organization and Schedule
The CAVM project is organized such that experts in each region of the Arctic
will do the initial mapping. Syn
thesis win be done at the subcontinental scale at GIS centers in Alaska
(USGS Alaska EROS Field Office), Scandinavia (GRID-Arendal) and Russia
arov Institute in collaboration with Moscow State University).
Contingent on funding, the regional draft maps will be completed by 1998,
nental syntheses by 1999, and final circumpolar synthesis by 2001.
The overall CAVM Project Coordinator is Donald A. (Skip) Walker,
Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is leading the North American continental
unding support for this synthesis has been received from the
Bureau of Land Management (Alaska State Office), National Biological Service,
ge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage; these funds will
be matched by the U.S. Geological Survey EROS Alaska Field Office, Anchorage