Scale-dependent environmental controls over species composition in Alaska black spruce communities
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Teresa N. Hollingsworth; Marilyn D. Walker; F. Stuart Chapin III; A. L. Parson
Publication Year: 2006

Cataloging Information

  • black spruce
  • boreal forest
  • climate change
  • Picea mariana
  • population dynamics
  • species composition
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: January 18, 2016
FRAMES Record Number: 4228


The boreal forest is the second largest terrestrial biome, and the black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) forest type occupies a large extent of boreal North America. Black spruce communities occur in a variety of environmental conditions and are especially important in the context of climate change because of underlain permafrost in much of the northern black spruce forests, as well as their adaptation to fire disturbance. We used a classification and ordination approach to describe and name Alaskan black spruce communities and relate them to key environmental variables. We analyzed the relationship of species richness with topographic position and with soil pH using both univariate and multivariate analysis of variance. We also explored the variability in structural, physical, and soil characteristics. We described three black spruce community types and five subtypes based purely on floristic composition. Paludification and topography were the most important gradients explaining species composition for the Fairbanks region (61% variance explained). However, at the scale of interior Alaska, pH, drainage, and productivity were the strongest environmental gradients (81% variance explained). We conclude that species composition of mature black spruce forests in interior Alaska results from the complex interaction of landscape and fire history, soil pH, paludification, permafrost, and topographic position.

Online Link(s):
Hollingsworth, Teresa N.; Walker, Marilyn D.; Chapin III, F. Stuart; Parson, A.L. 2006. Scale-dependent environmental controls over species composition in Alaska black spruce communities. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 36(7):1781-1796.