Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Classification

Donald A. Walker*, Fred J.A. Daniëls, Nadezhda V. Matveyeva, Jozef Šibík, Marilyn D. Walker, Amy L. Breen, Lisa A. Druckenmiller, Martha K. Raynolds, Helga Bültmann, Stephan Hennekens, Marcel Buchhorn, Howard E. Epstein, Ksenia Ermokhina, Anna M. Fosaa, Starri Heidmarsson, Birgit Heim, Ingibjörg S. Jónsdóttir, Natalia Koroleva, Esther Lévesque, William H. MacKenzieGreg H.R. Henry, Lennart Nilsen, Robert Peet, Volodya Razzhivin, Stephen S. Talbot, Mikhail Telyatnikov, Dietbert Thannheiser, Patrick J. Webber, Lisa M. Wirth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: An Arctic Vegetation Classification (AVC) is needed to address issues related to rapid Arctic-wide changes to climate, land-use, and biodiversity. Location: The 7.1 million km2 Arctic tundra biome. Approach and conclusions: The purpose, scope and conceptual framework for an Arctic Vegetation Archive (AVA) and Classification (AVC) were developed during numerous workshops starting in 1992. The AVA and AVC are modeled after the European vegetation archive (EVA) and classification (EVC). The AVA will use Turboveg for data management. The AVC will use a Braun-Blanquet (Br.-Bl.) classification approach. There are approximately 31,000 Arctic plots that could be included in the AVA. An Alaska AVA (AVA-AK, 24 datasets, 3026 plots) is a prototype for archives in other parts of the Arctic. The plan is to eventually merge data from other regions of the Arctic into a single Turboveg v3 database. We present the pros and cons of using the Br.-Bl. classification approach compared to the EcoVeg (US) and Biogeoclimatic Ecological Classification (Canada) approaches. The main advantages are that the Br.-Bl. approach already has been widely used in all regions of the Arctic, and many described, well-accepted vegetation classes have a pan-Arctic distribution. A crosswalk comparison of Dryas octopetala communities described according to the EcoVeg and the Braun-Blanquet approaches indicates that the non-parallel hierarchies of the two approaches make crosswalks difficult above the plantcommunity level. A preliminary Arctic prodromus contains a list of typical Arctic habitat types with associated described syntaxa from Europe, Greenland, western North America, and Alaska. Numerical clustering methods are used to provide an overview of the variability of habitat types across the range of datasets and to determine their relationship to previously described Braun-Blanquet syntaxa. We emphasize the need for continued maintenance of the Pan-Arctic Species List, and additional plot data to fully sample the variability across bioclimatic subzones, phytogeographic regions, and habitats in the Arctic. This will require standardized methods of plot-data collection, inclusion of physiogonomic information in the numeric analysis approaches to create formal definitions for vegetation units, and new methods of data sharing between the AVA and national vegetation- plot databases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-201
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Alaska
  • Bioclimate gradient
  • Braun-Blanquet approach
  • Habitat type
  • Plant growth form
  • Plot database
  • Syntaxon
  • Tundra
  • Vegetation mapping


Dive into the research topics of 'Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Classification'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this