Vegetation and soils in high latitudes
- American, Canadian and Russian ecologists define arctic and subarctic zones in contrasting ways.
- The soil catena is the fundamental unit of study in polar regions, as it encompasses local variations in topography, permafrost depth, hydrology, soils and plant communities.
- Arctic Brown soils occur on well drained sites, Tundra Gleys on poorly drained sites, and Peaty Tundra Gleys on very poorly drained sites in the Low Arctic.
- Polar Desert soils, Lithosols and Regosols dominate the High Arctic.
- The nutrient content of polar soils is very low, and undoubtedly restricts the productivity of polar ecosystems.
Plant adaptations in polar regions
- Low temperatures are but one of the factors of environmental stress to overcome which polar plants species have had to evolve adaptations.
- Low soil nutrient contents, windiness, waterlogging and unweathered regoliths are additional limits on vegetation survival and growth.
- Polar plants show a great variety of adaptations to cold by growth, habitat, ecophysiological characteristics and biochemical metabolism.
- Waterlogging of the ‘active layer’ of soils means that many polar plants show hydrophytic characteristics.
- Areas where snow lingers in early summer usually show a distinctive ‘snow loving’ vegetation.
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