Comparative phytosociological investigation of subalpine alder thickets in southwestern Alaska and the North Pacific
Talbot, Stephen S.; Talbot, Sandra Looman; Daniëls, Fred J.A.
We present the first vegetation analysis of subalpine alder (Alnus viridis) thickets in southwestern Alaska. The data are primarily from mesic, hilly and mountainous sites ranging from the westernmost tip of the Alaska Peninsula to the northern Kenai Peninsula, spanning 1,000 km on an E–W gradient and 700 km on a N–S gradient. 127 relevés from 18 sites represent the range of structural and compositional variation in the matrix of vegetation and landform diversity. Data were analyzed by multivariate and traditional Braun-Blanquet methods. One association is distinguished, Sambuco racemosi-Alnetum viridis ass. nov. with three new subassociations, oplopanacetosum horridi, typicum, and rubetosum spectabilis with the latter subdivided into four variants. These phytocoena are well-differentiated, although they form a syntaxonomical continuum. The composition and structure of these communities are described and interpreted in relation to complex environmental factors; these are analyzed using Jancey's ranking on F-values. Community composition is primarily related to elevation, longitude, soil moisture, and latitude. Phytogeographic comparison of southwestern Alaska alder communities with those elsewhere in the North Pacific suggests a close floristic relationship to those of southcentral, southeastern Alaska and coastal British Columbia, Canada. All these communities belong to the same association, while those of the eastern and southern parts of the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia belong to a different association. Syntaxonomy of the 4 major communities is discussed. Within the Northern Hemisphere, vascular plant species of southwestern Alaska alder thickets primarily occur in East Asia and North America, 36 %; while 26 % are circumpolar, and 22 % are restricted to North America. From a latitudinal perspective, the distribution of vascular plant species within these alder thickets peaks in the high-subarctic, low-subarctic, and temperate latitudinal zones, with low representation of arctic species.