White Spruce Seedling (<i>Picea glauca</i>) Discovered North of the Brooks Range Along Alaska's Dalton Highway
Keywords: boreal forest, Brooks Range, forest-tundra, tree line, white spruce
AbstractA white spruce seedling, Picea glauca (Moench) Voss, was found at the northern edge of the Brooks Range in Alaska, more than 50 km north of the latitudinal tree line. The seedling, 19 cm tall and about nine years old, was growing at the side of the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay. It most likely sprouted from a seed transported across the Brooks Range on a vehicle and has survived on the well-drained gravel road berm, where site conditions are more favorable for germination and survival than in the surrounding tundra. This spruce has survived for about a decade under current climatic conditions. Even with a warming climate, natural seed dispersal is severely hampered by the rugged topographic barrier of the Brooks Range. Considering the amount of vehicle traffic on the Dalton Highway, however, it is likely that more pioneering spruce seedlings will turn up along this corridor. Once over the Brooks Range, a spruce population can potentially develop and expand.