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Time-series maps reveal widespread change in plant functional type cover across arctic and boreal Alaska and Yukon

March 8, 2022 @ 10:00 am to 11:00 am AKST

Speaker: Matt Macander, ABR, Inc.

Widespread changes in the distribution and abundance of plant functional types (PFTs) are occurring in Arctic and boreal ecosystems due to the intensification of disturbances, such as fire, and climate-driven vegetation dynamics, such as tundra shrub expansion. To understand how these changes affect boreal and tundra ecosystems, we map a 35-year time-series (1985–2020) of top cover (TC) at 30-m resolution for seven PFTs across a 1,770,000 km² study area in northern and central Alaska and northwestern Canada. The PFTs collectively include all vascular plants within the study area as well as light macrolichens, a nonvascular class of high importance to caribou management. We identified net increases in deciduous shrubs (66,000 km²), evergreen shrubs (20,000 km²), broadleaf trees (17,000 km²), and conifer trees (16,000 km²), and net decreases in graminoids (-40,000 km²) and light macrolichens (-13,000 km²) related to shrub expansion, fire, succession, and other processes.