Reconnaissance Observations of Long-Term Natural Vegetation Recovery in the Cape Thompson Region, Alaska, and Additions to the Checklist of Flora,
COLD REGIONS RESEARCH AND ENGINEERING LAB HANOVER NH
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The diversity of disturbance types, landforms, vegetation and soils, together with the large, well-documented flora, makes Cape Thompson an ideal site to study long-term 20-year environmental adjustments after impact. Man-caused disturbances there between 1958 and 1962 fall into three categories runways, excavations and off-road vehicle trails. In addition, natural disturbance by frost action creates scars. Reestablished vegetation after 20 years consisted of species found in adjacent undisturbed landscapes. Vegetation on excavations and cut-and-fill surfaces consisted of 3-5 vascular plants, of which Deschampsia cespitosa and Sagina nivalis are the most important in terms of cover and frequency of the 33 species identified. Cryptogams generally made up less than 1 of the vegetation, with lichens showing the least reestablishment. The tundra at Ogotoruk Creek has shown considerable resiliency in terms of reestablishment of vegetation, especially in the moister sites where bank slumping and lateral migration of vegetation is effective. On the more-exposed, better-drained sites, as on frost scars, the continuing interplay between physical and biological forces has prevented directional or progressive plant succession.