Relationship of vegetation distribution to soil properties in Kärkevagge, Swedish Lapland

Robert G. Darmody, Colin E. Thorn, Peter Schlyter, John C. Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Kärkevagge, an alpine ecosystem in the subarctic, has been the subject of scientific study for half a century. We investigated the relationship of its vegetation to soil properties. At the lowest elevations, on stable portions of the landscape dominated by Betula and Empetrum, are found Spodosols developed in glacio-fluvial sediments. Cryosaprists occur in scattered bedrock depressions with bog-type vegetation. Cryofluvents are found in flood-prone areas covered by dwarf-willow thickets. Intermediate elevations have meadow-type vegetation with Cryofluvents on floodplains and on lower colluvial slopes, Cryaquents in wetter areas, and Cryorthents on steeper soliflucted slopes. Above that, on steep, west-facing Dryas-covered colluvial slopes, soils are Ca-rich Eutrocryepts and Haplocryolls. The highest-elevation soils are infertile with poor horizonation, despite their possible antiquity, and vegetation that is largely cryptogams. Dystrocryepts occur on more stable alpine locations; Cryorthents on soliflucted areas; and Haploturbels, with shallow permafrost, above 1400 m. Measured annual soil temperatures range from +2.4°C at a Dryas site to -3.4°C at 1585 m at an alpine cryptogam site. Vegetation distribution in Kärkevagge is related to climatic factors, which are controlled by elevation and landscape position, and edaphic factors, which control soil moisture and nutrient availability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-32
Number of pages12
JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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