, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 363-370
Date: 10 Aug 2007

Changes in the structure and heterogeneity of vegetation and microsite environments with the chronosequence of primary succession on a glacier foreland in Ellesmere Island, high arctic Canada

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Abstract

Primary plant succession was investigated on a well-vegetated glacier foreland on Ellesmere Island in high arctic Canada. A field survey was carried out on four glacier moraines differing in time after deglaciation to assess vegetation development and microsite modification in the chronosequence of succession. The results showed evidence of directional succession without species replacement, which is atypical in the high arctic, reflecting the exceptionally long time vegetation development. During this successional process, Salix arctica dominated throughout all moraines. The population structures of S. arctica on these moraines implied the population growth of this species with progressing succession. The population density of S. arctica reflected the abundance of vascular plants, suggesting that development of the plant community might be related to structural changes and the growth of constituting populations. Through such growths of the population and the whole community with progressing succession, the spatial heterogeneity of vegetation gradually declines. Moreover, this vegetation homogenization is accompanied by changes in the spatial heterogeneity of microsite environments, suggesting significant plant effects on the modification of microsite environments. Accordingly, it was concluded that the directional primary succession observed on this glacier foreland is characterized by the initial sporadic colonization of plants, subsequent population growths, and the community assembly of vascular plants, accompanied by microsite modification.