Strong shrub expansion in tundra-taiga, tree infilling in taiga and stable tundra in central Chukotka (north-eastern Siberia) between 2000 and 2017

Birgit.Heim [ at ]


Vegetation is responding to climate change, which is especially prominent in the Arctic. Vegetation change is manifest in different ways and varies regionally, depending on the characteristics of the investigated area. Although vegetation in some Arctic areas has been thoroughly investigated, central Chukotka (NE Siberia) with its highly diverse vegetation, mountainous landscape and deciduous needle-leaf treeline remains poorly explored, despite showing strong greening in remote-sensing products. Here we quantify recent vegetation compositional changes in central Chukotka over 15 years between 2000/2001/2002 and 2016/2017. We numerically related field-derived information on foliage projective cover (percentage cover) of different plant taxa from 52 vegetation plots to remote-sensing derived (Landsat) spectral indices (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Normalised Difference Water Index (NDWI) and Normalised Difference Snow Index (NDSI)) using constrained ordination. Clustering of ordination scores resulted in four land-cover classes: (1) larch closed-canopy forest, (2) forest tundra and shrub tundra, (3) graminoid tundra and (4) prostrate herb tundra and barren areas. We produced land-cover maps for early (2000, 2001 or 2002) and recent (2016 or 2017) time-slices for four focus regions along the tundra-taiga vegetation gradient. Transition from graminoid tundra to forest tundra and shrub tundra is interpreted as shrubification and amounts to 20% area increase in the tundra-taiga zone and 40% area increase in the northern taiga. Major contributors of shrubification are alder, dwarf birch and some species of the heather family. Land-cover change from the forest tundra and shrub tundra class to the larch closed-canopy forest class is interpreted as tree infilling and is notable in the northern taiga. We find almost no land-cover changes in the present treeless tundra.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/ab9059

Cite as
Shevtsova, I. , Heim, B. , Kruse, S. , Schröder, J. , Troeva, E. I. , Pestryakova, L. A. , Zakharov, E. S. and Herzschuh, U. (2020): Strong shrub expansion in tundra-taiga, tree infilling in taiga and stable tundra in central Chukotka (north-eastern Siberia) between 2000 and 2017 , Environmental Research Letters, 15 (8), 085006 . doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab9059



Geographical region

Research Platforms

Arctic Land Expeditions > RU-Land_2016_Keperveem

Funded by

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