The Role of Thermal Regime in Tundra Plant Community Restoration



Mineral extraction activities in the Arctic regions of the world produce long-lasting ecological disturbances. Assisted recovery from such disturbances may require restoration of the tundra thermal regime. We transplanted plugs of entire root zone and live tundra plants to a disturbed site in Alaska oil fields. The dominant species were Carex aquatilis, Eriophorum angustifolium, Dupontia fisheri, Poa glauca, Festuca rubra, Salix ovalifolia, S. reticulata, and Sphagnum spp. We studied plant responses in the plugs to thermal regime manipulations by means of greenhouse and of single- or double-plug treatments. All plugs continued to produce new plants with time and expanded in area and canopy volume. Plants responded differently to treatments and generally reversed those responses when we reversed the greenhouse treatment the third year after transplant. Our small-scale experiment showed that the native thermal regime of a plant community is vital in revegetating a disturbed tundra. But large-scale restoration using transplants requires resources of modern extraction technology, engineering, and planning to salvage the extensive live tundra mats now routinely destroyed under gravel fills of roads, structures, and mine-site stockpiles.