Vegetation and landscape ecologists at ACCS develop vegetation, wetland, and land cover maps to spatially describe the continuum of vegetation communities and geophysical characteristics for terrestrial and wetland landscapes across Alaska. Our approaches include both traditional categorical maps that depict exclusive vegetation or ecological types and novel continuous variation maps that represent the greatest amount of observed variation for plant species/groups or environmental characteristics. Map products are used to assess ecosystem status and trends while accounting for the structure of the landscape. We are currently developing maps that represent the proportional abundance (as foliar cover) of widespread plant and lichen species/groups across arctic and boreal Alaska and adjacent Yukon. The foliar cover maps better represent vegetation patterns than is possible in categorical vegetation maps.
Vegetation ecologists at ACCS have also produced a composite categorical land cover dataset that covers the entirety of Alaska by mosaicking the best available regional land cover data. The Alaska Vegetation and Wetland Composite (AKVWC) classifies the landscape into standardized fine and coarse classes while maintaining the source classification in the attributes. This map is intended to serve as an interim product until consistent statewide vegetation map products, such as the National Wetland Inventory is completed, or the continuous foliar cover maps referenced above, are produced. While the wetland map provides wetland and deepwater codes in accordance with the national wetland classification scheme the map does not meet the minimum national standards established for the national wetlands data layer. Inference of wetland status should be limited to the landscape scape and NWI coverage should take precedence where available.
Examples of species-level continuous foliar cover maps are shown above for Salix pulchra and Eriophorum vaginatum on the North Slope of Alaska. Detailed information on the performance of the maps and a comparison to a recent categorical vegetation map are available in Nawrocki et al. 2020.
For a complete listing of all vegetation and land cover mapping products produced by ACCS, visit our data catalog using the button below: