Factors determining plant species richness in Alaskan artic tundra

M.E.W. van der Welle, P.J. Vermeulen, G.R. Shaver, F. Berendse

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We studied the relationship between plant N:P ratio, soil characteristics and species richness in wet sedge and tussock tundra in northern Alaska at seven sites. We also collected data on soil characteristics, above-ground biomass, species richness and composition. The N:P ratio of the vegetation did not show any relationship with species richness. The N:P ratio of the soil was related with species richness for both vegetation types. Species richness in the tussock tundra was most strongly correlated with soil calcium content and soil pH, with a strong correlation between these two factors. N:P ratio of the soil was also correlated with soil pH. Other factors correlated with species richness were soil moisture and Sphagnum cover. Organic matter content was the factor most strongly correlated with species richness in the wet sedge vegetation. N:P ratio of the soil was strongly correlated with organic matter content. We conclude that N:P ratio in the vegetation is not an important factor determining species richness in arctic tundra and that species richness in arctic tundra is mainly determined by pH and flooding. In tussock tundra the pH, declining with soil age, in combination with Sphagnum growth strongly decreases species richness, while in wet sedge communities flooding over long periods of time creates less favourable conditions for species richness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-720
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Publication statusPublished - 2003



  • carbon storage
  • co2 flux
  • soil-ph
  • responses
  • diversity
  • communities
  • biomass
  • toposequence
  • fertilizer
  • dominance

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