A Standardized Ecosystem Classification for the Coordination and Design of Long-term Terrestrial Ecosystem Monitoring in Arctic-Subarctic Biomes


  • Donald S. McLennan
  • William H. MacKenzie
  • Del Meidinger
  • Johann Wagner
  • Christopher Arko




tundra, terrestrial ecosystem classification, terrestrial ecosystem mapping, vegetation classification, tundra plant community, monitoring, Arctic vegetation, Subarctic vegetation, plant association, zonal concept, ecological site, biogeoclimatic, hypothe


A Canadian Arctic-Subarctic Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (CASBEC) is proposed as a standardized classification approach for Subarctic and Arctic terrestrial ecosystems across Canada and potentially throughout the circumpolar area. The CASBEC is grounded in long-standing terrestrial ecosystem classification theory and builds on concepts developed for ecosystems in British Columbia, Quebec, and Yukon. The fundamental classification unit of the CASBEC, the plant association, is compatible with the lower-level classifications of the Arctic Vegetation Classification (AVC), the Canadian National Vegetation Classification (CNVC), and the United States National Vegetation Classification (USNVC) and is used to generate a classification and nomenclature for Arctic and Subarctic terrestrial ecological communities. The use of a multi-scalar ecosystem framework, such as that developed by the British Columbia Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification, provides an ecological context to use classified plant associations to delineate and define climatically equivalent regional scale climate units (biogeoclimatic subzones) and ecologically equivalent local-scale site units within biogeoclimatic subzones. A standardized framework and taxonomy of ecosystem classification for Subarctic and Arctic terrestrial ecological communities will facilitate the planning, coordination, and applicability of terrestrial ecological monitoring and research. The CASBEC classification and high-resolution ecosystem mapping are being used to develop an effective experimental design, to select ecosite types for long-term monitoring, and to extrapolate results to landscape scales in the Experimental and Reference Area of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) in Cambridge Bay. Widespread adoption of the CASBEC could provide a spatial and functionally scalable framework and a common language for interpreting, integrating, coordinating, and communicating Arctic and Subarctic monitoring, research, and land management activities across the Canadian North and around the circumpolar area.