Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Vegetation, plant biomass, and net primary productivity patterns in the Canadian Arctic



[1] We have developed maps of dominant vegetation types, plant functional types, percent vegetation cover, aboveground plant biomass, and above and belowground annual net primary productivity for Canada north of the northern limit of trees. The area mapped covers 2.5 million km2 including glaciers. Ice-free land covers 2.3 million km2 and represents 42% of all ice-free land in the Circumpolar Arctic. The maps combine information on climate, soils, geology, hydrology, remotely sensed vegetation classifications, previous vegetation studies, and regional expertise to define polygons drawn using photo-interpretation of a 1:4,000,000 scale advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) color infrared image basemap. Polygons are linked to vegetation description, associated properties, and descriptive literature through a series of lookup tables in a graphic information systems (GIS) database developed as a component of the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map (CAVM) project. Polygons are classified into 20 landcover types including 17 vegetation types. Half of the region is sparsely vegetated (<50% vegetation cover), primarily in the High Arctic (bioclimatic subzones A–C). Whereas most (86%) of the estimated aboveground plant biomass (1.5 × 1015 g) and 87% of the estimated above and belowground annual net primary productivity (2.28 × 1014 g yr−1) are concentrated in the Low Arctic (subzones D and E). The maps present more explicit spatial patterns of vegetation and ecosystem attributes than have been previously available, the GIS database is useful in summarizing ecosystem properties and can be easily updated and integrated into circumpolar mapping efforts, and the derived estimates fall within the range of current published estimates.