Ecological Research

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 363–370 | Cite as

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

  • Akira S. Mori
  • Takashi Osono
  • Masaki Uchida
  • Hiroshi Kanda
Original Article


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.


Community assembly Microsite modification Polar oasis Population growth Salix arctica 



The authors thank Mr. Bob Howe, Dr. S. Iwasaki, and the members of the Polar Continental Shelf Project, Natural Resources, Canada, for their assistance in the logistics and field research. We also thank Dr. S. Kojima for the identification of vascular plants. Dr. K. Takahashi and two anonymous reviewers provided us with useful comments in revising the earlier manuscripts. This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Priority Areas Research from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan (grant no. 11208204).


  1. Atkinson N, England J (2004) Postglacial emergence of Amund and Ellef Ringnes islands, Nunavut: implications for the northwest sector of the Innuitian Ice Sheet. Can J Earth Sci 41:271–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barsch D (1981) Geomorphology of the expedition area in Oobloyah Bay, northern Ellesmere Island, N.W.T., Canada. In: Barsch D, King L (eds) Results of the Heidelberg Ellesmere Island Expedition. Geographischen Instituts der Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany, pp 109–122 (Heidelberg Geographischen Arbeiten 69) (in German)Google Scholar
  3. Bellehumeur C, Legedre P (1998) Multiscale sources of variation in ecological variables: modeling spatial dispersion, elaborating sampling designs. Landscape Ecol 13:15–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bliss LC (1997) Arctic ecosystems of North America. In: Wielgoaski EF (eds) Ecosystems of the world 3. Polar and alpine tundra. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, pp 551–683Google Scholar
  5. Bliss LC, Gold WG (1994) The patterning of plant communities and edaphic factors along a high arctic coastline: implications for succession. Can J Bot 72:1095–1107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cannone N, Guglielmin M, Gerdol R (2004) Relationships between vegetation patterns and periglacial landforms in northwestern Svalbard. Polar Biol 27:562–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chapin FS III (1987) Environmental controls over growth of tundra plants. Ecol Bull 38:69–76Google Scholar
  8. Chapin FS III, Walker LR, Fastie CL, Sharman LC (1994) Mechanisms of primary succession following deglaciation at Glacier Bay, Alaska. Ecol Monogr 64:149–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chen YF, Yu FH, Dong M (2002) Scale-dependent spatial heterogeneity of vegetation in Mu Us sandy land, a semi-arid area of China. Plant Ecol 162:135–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cooper EJ, Alsos IG, Hagen D, Smith FM, Coulson SJ, Hodkinson ID (2004) Plant recruitment in the High Arctic: seed bank and seedling emergence on Svalbard. J Veg Sci 15:115–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crouch HJ (1993) Plant distribution patterns and primary succession on a glacier foreland: a comparative study of cryptogams and higher plants. In: Miles J, Walton DWH (eds) Primary succession on land. Blackwell, Oxford, UK, pp 133–145Google Scholar
  12. Dlugosch K, del Moral R (1999) Vegetational heterogeneity along elevational gradients. Northwest Sci 73:12–18Google Scholar
  13. Dutilleul P, Legendre P (1993) Spatial heterogeneity against heteroscedasticity: an ecological paradigm versus a statistical concept. Oikos 66:152–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Freedman B, Svoboda J, Henry GHR (1994) Alexandra Fiord—an ecological oasis in the polar desert. In: Svoboda J, Freedman B (eds) Ecology of a polar oasis: Alexandra Fiord, Ellesmere Island, Canada. Captus University Publications, Toronto, Canada, pp 1–9Google Scholar
  15. Hasegawa H (2003) Glacier geomorphology in the area Oobloyah Bay, Ellesmere Island (in Japanese). AERC Newsl 17:6–7Google Scholar
  16. He F, Duncan RP (2000) Density-dependent effects on tree survival in an old-growth Douglas fir forest. J Ecol 88:676–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hirobe M, Ohte N, Karasawa N, Zhang G-S, Wang L-H, Yoshikawa K (2001) Plant species effect on the spatial patterns of soil properties in the Mu-us desert ecosystem, Inner Mongolia, China. Plant Soil 234:195–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hodkinson ID, Coulson SJ, Webb NR (2003) Community assembly along proglacial chronosequences in the high Arctic: vegetation and soil development in north-west Svalbard. J Ecol 91:651–663CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jones GA, Henry GHR (2003) Primary plant succession on recently deglaciated terrain in the Canadian High Arctic. J Biogeogr 30:277–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jumpponen A, Vare H, Mattson KG, Ohtonen R, Trappe JM (1999) Characterization of ‘safe sites’ for pioneers in primary succession on recently deglaciated terrain. J Ecol 87:98–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. King L (1981) Studies in glacial history of the area between Oobloyah Bay and Esayoo Bay, northern Ellesmere Island, N.W.T., Canada. In: Barsch D, King L (eds) Results of the Heidelberg Ellesmere Island Expedition. Geographischen Instituts der Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany, pp 233–267 (Heidelberg Geographischen Arbeiten 69) (in German)Google Scholar
  22. Legendre P, Fortin M-J (1989) Spatial pattern and ecological analysis. Vegetatio 80:107–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lévesque E (2001) Small scale plant distribution within a polar desert plateau, central Ellesmere Island, Canada. Écoscience 8:350–358Google Scholar
  24. Matthews JA (1992) The ecology of recently-deglaciated terrain: a geographical approach to glacier forelands and primary succession. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  25. Matthews JA, Whittaker RJ (1987) Vegetation succession on the Storbreen glacier foreland, Jotunheimen, Norway: a review. Arct Alp Res 19:385–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mitchell-Olds T (1987) Analysis of local variation in plant size. Ecology 68:82–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. del Moral R, Jones C (2002) Vegetation development on pumice at Mount St. Helens, USA. Plant Ecol 162:9–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mori A, Osono T, Iwasaki S, Uchida M, Kanda H (2006) Initial recruitment and establishment of vascular plants in relation to topographical variation in microsite conditions on a recently-deglaciated moraine on Ellesmere Island, high arctic Canada. Polar Biosci 19:85–95Google Scholar
  29. Mori A, Takeda H (2004) Effects of undisturbed canopy structure on population structure and species coexistence in an old-growth subalpine forest in central Japan. For Ecol Manage 200:89–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Muc M, Freedman B, Svoboda J (1994) Vascular plant communities of a polar oasis at Alexandra fiord, Ellesmere Island. In: Svoboda J, Freedman B (eds) Ecology of a polar oasis: Alexandra Fiord, Ellesmere Island, Canada. Captus University Publications, Toronto, Canada, pp 53–63Google Scholar
  31. Okitsu S, Sawaguchi S, Hasegawa H, Kanda H (2004) Vegetation development on the glacier moraines in Oobloyah Valley, Ellesmere Island, high arctic Canada. Polar Biosci 17:83–94Google Scholar
  32. Pielou EC (1991) A naturalist’s guide to the arctic. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  33. Svoboda J, Henry GHR (1987) Succession in marginal arctic environments. Arc Alp Res 19:373–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tolvanen A, Schroderus J, Henry GHR (2001) Age- and stage-based bud demography of Salix arctica under contrasting muskox grazing pressure in the High Arctic. Evol Ecol 15:443–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Akira S. Mori
    • 1
    • 2
  • Takashi Osono
    • 1
  • Masaki Uchida
    • 3
  • Hiroshi Kanda
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Environmental Science and Technology, Graduate School of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Forest Ecology Lab, School of Resource and Environmental ScienceSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  3. 3.National Institute of Polar ResearchTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations