Tectonic drivers for vegetation patterning and landscape evolution in the Albany River region of the Hudson Bay Lowlands


Paul H. Glaser (e-mail glase001@umn.edu).


  • 1Groundwater–peatland interactions were assessed by a regional survey in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, where the rapid rate of isostatic uplift has perturbed hydrological flow systems across a 6000-year chronosequence.
  • 2A 24 000 km2 study area along the Albany River consists of 55% fen, 35% bog and 10% mineral soil. The peatland vegetation may be further subdivided into 11 noda, which are closely related to different water levels, ranges in water chemistry, and peat landform type. Species richness generally declines with increasing water level and acidity, whereas the gradient from bog to extremely rich fen is marked by the changing abundance and occurrence of fen-indicator species.
  • 3Bog landforms are restricted to physiographic settings where surface waters flow downwards and the bog vegetation is therefore isotated from the influence of geogenous waters. In contrast, fens are located in areas where mineral solutes are transported to the peat surface either by upwelling groundwater or by advective/dispersion along lateral flow paths.
  • 4Peatlands spread across the study area between 6000 and 3000 bp, coinciding with the emergence of new land from the sea. The release of organic acids from the nearly continuous peat cover acidified this calcareous landscape, leading to the convergence of the surface-water chemistry into four discrete groupings of pH vs. calcium.
  • 5Isostatic uplift, however, continues to alter the topography, fluvial geometry and groundwater flow systems of the lowlands, maintaining diverse peatland types on land surfaces of similar age. The formation of water-table mounds under the interfluvial divides and rising moraine system spurred the development of raised bogs, whereas the formation of regional seepage faces for goundwater on the margins of the moraine and rivers of the till plain maintains large areas of fen.
  • 6Although peatland succession seems to follow predictable pathways within a given hydrogeological setting, these pathways are locally altered by tectonic drivers that continually modify surface and groundwater flow systems. In this large peat basin the pace and pathway of peatland succession seems to be driven by tectonic rather than climatic forcing.