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Corpus Systématique Végétale

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Recent expansion of erect shrubs in the Low Arctic: evidence from Eastern Nunavik

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  • Letter
  • Special Issue on Dynamics of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Vegetation
  • shrub expansion
  • repeat photography
  • Betula glandulosa
  • Larix laricina
  • foresttundra ecotone
  • climate warming
Nom du fichier dans la ressource
  • Benot Tremblay 1
  • Esther Lvesque 1
  • Stphane Boudreau 2
  • 1) Dpartement de Chimie-biologie, Centre dtudes nordiques, Universit duQubec Trois-Rivires, 3351 boulevard des Forges, CP 500, Trois-Rivires, QC, G9A 5H7, Canada
  • 2) Northern Research Chair on Disturbance Ecology, Dpartement de Biologie, Centre dtudes nordiques, Universit Laval, 1045, avenue de la Mdecine, Qubec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada

In order to characterize shrub response near the treeline in Eastern Nunavik (Qubec), a region under extensive warming since the 1990s, we compared two series (1964 and 2003) of vertical aerial photos from the vicinity of Kangiqsualujjuaq. Our study revealed a widespread increase in erect woody vegetation cover. During the 40years spanning the two photo series, erect shrub and tree cover increased markedly on more than half of the land surface available for new colonization or infilling. Within the 7.2km2 analysed, areas with dense shrub and tree cover (>90) increased from 34 to 44 whereas areas with low cover (<10) shrank from 45 to 29. This increase in cover of trees and shrubs occurred throughout the landscape regardless of altitude, slope angle and exposure, although to varying extents. The main shrub species involved in this increase was Betula glandulosa Michx.(dwarf birch), which was present in 98 and dominant in 85 of the 345 plots. In addition, numerous seedlings and saplings of Larix laricina (Du Roi) KKoch (eastern larch) were found above the treeline (25 of the plots), suggesting that the altitudinal treeline might shift upslope in the near future. Sites that remained devoid of erect woody vegetation in 2003 were either characterized by the absence of a suitable seedbed or by harsh local microclimatic conditions (wind exposure or excessive drainage). Our results indicate dramatic increases in shrub and tree cover at a Low Arctic site in Eastern Nunavik, contributing to a growing number of observations of woody vegetation change from various areas around the North.

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  • 1 - sciences appliquees, technologies et medecines
  • 2 - sciences biologiques et medicales
  • 3 - sciences biologiques fondamentales et appliquees. psychologie
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Environmental Research Letters

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