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Ice wedge polygons are one of the most widespread and easily recognizable permafrost landforms. Distinct vegetation zonation can be observed in some polygons. While the relationship between vegetation and permafrost has been well explored, the potential interactions between vegetation succession and the evolution of ice wedge polygons have not. The purpose of this study was to characterize and compare the vegetation patterns on wet low centered polygons and dry intermediate centered polygons and compare them to geological factors important for both the ecology and geomorphological development. Patterns in the vegetation correlated to changes in elevation and soil moisture. There was evidence suggestion that the buildup of organic material played in a role in the transition from the low to intermediate centered stages, and that the transition to the high centered stage could be rapid. The direction of the relationships between vegetation and geological factors often seesawed between wet and dry polygons, suggesting a complex interplay with soil moisture. This indicates that changes to the hydrological regime of polygonal patterned ground could have dramatic effects on both the ecology and the morphology of vast landscapes. The thaw of permafrost will likely bring about changes in the hydrological systems in the arctic, so a better understanding of the complex nature of the interactions between ecology and geomorphology will be essential to our understanding of the potential effects of climate change.
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Ryan, Loralee Rae, "Vegetation Zonation on Ice Wedge Polygons" (2013). Senior Projects Spring 2013. 19.
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