Tundra fire alters vegetation patterns more than the resultant thermokarst
Tundra fires are increasing in their frequencies and intensities due to global warming, which alter revegetation patterns through various pathways. To understand the effects of tundra fire and the resultant thermokarst on revegetation, vegetation and related environmental factors were compared between burned and unburned areas of Seward Peninsula, Alaska, using a total of 140 plots, 50 cm × 50 cm each. The area was burned in 2002 and surveyed in 2013. Seven vegetation types were classified by a cluster analysis and were categorized along a fire-severity gradient from none to severe fire intensity. The species richness and diversity were higher in intermediately disturbed plots. Severe fire allowed the immigration of fire-favored species (e.g., Epilobium angustifolium, Ceratodon purpureus) and decreased or did not change the species diversity, indicating that species replacement occurred within the severely burned site. Although thermokarsts (ground subsidence) broadly occurred on burned sites, due to thawing, the subsidence weakly influenced vegetation patterns. These results suggest that the fire directly altered the species composition at a landscape scale between the burned and unburned sites and it indirectly altered the plant cover and diversity through the differential modification, such as thermokarst, at a small scale within the burned site.
KeywordsPolygonal ground Landscape patterns Thawing Thermokarst Tundra fire
The authors thank K. Harada for field assistance. The authors also thank the staff members of IARC (International Arctic Research Center, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks) for various supports, including discussion and language improvement. This work was partly supported by IARC-JAXA and JSPS.
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