Institute of Arctic Biology (IAB) researcher Donald (Skip) Walker and an international team of Arctic vegetation scientists have published the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map (CAVM) the first map of an entire global biome at such a level of detail.
The 11-year CAVM project, directed by Walker, who also heads IAB's Alaska Geobotany Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, involved vegetation scientists representing the six countries of the Arctic - Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the United States - to map the vegetation and associated characteristics of the circumpolar region, using a common base map.
"A vegetation map of the Arctic is especially needed now because the Arctic is increasingly recognized as a single geoecosystem with a common set of cultural, political, economic, and ecological issues. Accelerated land-use change and climate change in the Arctic made the effort more urgent," Walker said.
The base map is a false-color infrared image created from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) satellite data. The map covers the Arctic bioclimate subzone - the region north of the Arctic tree line, with an arctic climate, arctic flora, and tundra vegetation. The map can be viewed on the Web at http://www.geobotany.uaf.edu/cavm/.
The 3-foot by 4-foot, waterproof, tear-proof, field-work-worthy, synthetic-paper map is as beautiful as it is useful. The front of the map shows the circumpolar Arctic color-coded according to the outward appearance of the vegetation and includes color photographs of the various units. The back of the map includes detailed vegetative descriptions, a brief history of the map's origin, and maps of the bioclimate subzones, floristic provinces, landscapes, percent lake cover, substrate pH, and plant biomass.