, 40:660 | Cite as

Four Decades of Plant Community Change in the Alpine Tundra of Southwest Yukon, Canada

  • Ryan K. Danby
  • Saewan Koh
  • David S. Hik
  • Larry W. Price


Repeat measurements from long-term plots provide precise data for studying plant community change. In 2010, we visited a remote location in Yukon, Canada, where a detailed survey of alpine tundra communities was conducted in 1968. Plant community composition was resurveyed on the same four slopes using the same methods as the original study. Species richness and diversity increased significantly over the 42 years and non-metric multidimensional scaling indicated that community composition had also changed significantly. However, the direction and magnitude of change varied with aspect. Dominant species were not replaced or eliminated but, instead, declined in relative importance. Fine-scale changes in vegetation were evident from repeat photography and dendro-ecological analysis of erect shrubs, supporting the community-level analysis. The period of study corresponds to a mean annual temperature increase of 2°C, suggesting that climate warming has influenced these changes.


Tundra Yukon Climate change Arctic–alpine Community ecology 



We thank Jade Laramie, Ashley Lowcock, Katriina O’Kane, and Jenna Siu for their assistance with data collection in the field, and Bruce Bennett for his assistance with plant identification. This research was supported by a NSERC International Polar Year Grant to DSH and NSERC Discovery Grant to RKD. Logistical support was provided by the Arctic Institute of North America’s Kluane Lake Research Station and the Yukon Geological Survey. Kind permission was granted by the Kluane First Nation to conduct this research in their traditional territory.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan K. Danby
    • 1
  • Saewan Koh
    • 2
  • David S. Hik
    • 3
  • Larry W. Price
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Geography and School of Environmental StudiesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  4. 4.Department of GeographyPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA

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