Terrain, vegetation and landscape evolution of the R4D research site, Brooks Range Foothills, Alaska

D. A. Walker, E. Binnian, B. M. Evans, N. D. Lederer, E. Nordstrand, P. J. Webber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Maps of the vegetation and terrain of a 22 km2 area centered on the Department of Energy (DOE) R4D (Response, Resistance. Resilience to and Recovery from Disturbance in Arctic Ecosystems) study site in the Southern Foothills Physiographic Province of Alaska were made using integrated geobotanical mapping procedures and a geographic‐information system. Typical landforms and surface forms include hillslope water tracks, Sagavanirktok‐age till deposits, nonsorted stone stripes, and colluvial‐basin deposits. Thirty‐two plant communities are described; the dominant vegetation (51% of the mapped area) is moist tussock‐sedge, dwarf‐shrub tundra dominated by Eriophorum vaginatum or Carex bigelowii. Much of the spatial variation in the mapped geobotanical characters reflects different‐aged glaciated surfaces. Shannon‐Wiener indices indicate that the more mature landscapes, represented by retransported hillslope deposits and basin colluvium, are less heterogeneous than newer landscapes such as surficial till deposits and floodplains. A typical toposequence on a mid‐Pleistocene‐age surface is discussed with respect to evolution of the landscape. Thick Sphagnum moss layers occur on lower hillslopes, and the patterns of moss‐layer development, heat flux, active layer thickness, and ground‐ice are seen as keys to developing thermokarst‐susceptibility maps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-261
Number of pages24
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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