The co-author of the new Arctic vegetation map is also an SAS botanist
An international team of botanists has been studying and mapping the vegetation of the Arctic region for many decades. They record the ecological and habitat characteristics of the vegetation in a unique map, which is made available to the wide scientific community investigating this part of the Earth. The efforts of the research team are covered by the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map (CAVM) project, whose member is also the botanist Jozef Šibík from the Plant Science and Biodiversity Center SAS (CBRB SAV, v. v. i.). The involvement of Slovak botanists in the creation of this map is the result of long-term intensive cooperation between the SAS institute and the team of Professor Donald Walker from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The latest version of the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map is currently being presented by its authors at an international conference on the occasion of Arctic Science Summit Week (February 17-24, 2023) in Vienna. The map groups more than 400 described plant communities into 16 types of vegetation, glaciers, salt water and fresh water with a resolution of 1 km. It shows the vast area between the Arctic Ocean in the north and the northern forest line in the south. The territory is characterized by extreme environmental and climatic conditions, a short growing season and low summer temperatures.
"The Arctic region is rich in dwarf shrubs, cushion and tufted herbs, lichens and mosses that grow close to the ground to effectively use specific microclimatic conditions and the minimum resources available to them," explains Jozef Šibík from CBRB SAV. The expert on alpine ecosystems adds that we also have equivalents of arctic vegetation here in Slovakia. These are alpine communities in our highest mountains: "A good example is a relict stand with rock sedge (Carex rupestris) or mouse-tail bog sedge (Elyna myosuiroides), which are rarely preserved in several locations, mainly in the Tatras, and represent the remains of a once more widespread arctic-alpine flora and vegetation.”
During the last two decades of research on the vegetation of the circumpolar region, scientists have noticed several changes in the vegetation that are a consequence of the climate crisis. They emphasize that these are significantly more visible in the Arctic region than in other parts of the world.
"Vegetation reacts to climate changes very intensively. For example, by the increased growth of biomass and the spread of shrubs, which were less widespread in the past precisely because of the low temperatures in this part of the country. Currently, this phenomenon is known under the term "shrubification” when deciduous shrubs grow and replace other vegetation types, thus changing the overall character of the landscape," explains J. Šibík.
Edited by Katarína Gáliková
Foto: Jozef Šibík