Climate and Vegetation of the Interior Lowlands of Southern Baffin Island : Long-term Stability at the Low Arctic Limit

  • J.D. Jacobs
  • A.N. Hedley
  • L.A. Maus
  • W.N. Mode
  • É.L. Simms
Keywords: Baffin Island, Nettilling Lake, low arctic vegetation, bioclimate, remote sensing, palynology, automatic climate station, climate change


The interior of southern Baffin Island between 64 N and 68 N latitude is a mainly lowland area over 50 000 km² in extent, containing two large lakes (Amadjuak and Nettilling) and numerous smaller lakes and ponds. This area is important as summer range for caribou and a variety of birds, and there is evidence for a human presence as early as 3000 B.P. Field studies between 1984 and 1988 and the operation of climatic autostations from 1987 to 1995 revealed a warm summer climate and cold winters. There is a locally rich and diverse vegetation, including Betula glandulosa and other species that are indicative of the low arctic bioclimatic zone and mark the present northern limit of that zone in the eastern Canadian Arctic. Air photos and Landsat imagery were used to map vegetation beyond the field areas, leading to an estimate of 46% of the land area in continuous vegetation (tundra) of some type and 15% with shrub and heath elements. Palynology of sediment cores taken from Nettilling Lake permitted extrapolation from present bioclimatic conditions to 4750 years B.P. Betula and therefore elements of a low arctic vegetation association appear to have been present in the area during most of that period, indicating a local bioclimatic system that has been relatively stable under regional variations of climate.