Alaska Ecoscience

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The Alaska-Yukon Region of the Circumboreal Vegetation Map

The circumboreal vegetation mapping (CBVM) project is an international collaboration among vegetation scientists to create a new vegetation map of the boreal region at a 1:7.5 million scale with a common legend and mapping protocol. The map is intended to portray potential natural vegetation, or the vegetation that would exist in the absence of human or natural disturbance, rather than existing vegetation that is commonly generated at larger scales. As a contribution to the CBVM effort, Torre Jorgenson, Alaska Ecoscience, and Del Meidinger, Meidinger Ecological Consultants Ltd., developed maps of bioclimatic zones, geographic sectors with similar floristic variability, and vegetation in boreal Alaska, Yukon, northwestern British Columbia, and a mountainous portion of southwest Northwest Territories—termed the Alaska-Yukon region. The work was supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Yukon Parks, the Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative, and the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna working group of the Arctic Council.

The effort included maps of bioclimates with 12 bioclimate zones, biogeographic provinces delineating the Alaska-Yukon and Aleutian provinces, and a map of geographic sectors with six sectors that provided the basis for classification of boreal vegetation. Mapping used MODIS imagery as the basis for manual image interpretation and an integrated-terrain-unit approach, which included classifications for bioclimate, physiography, generalized geology, permafrost, disturbance, growth from, geographic sector, and vegetation. A new tree line was developed for the region. Vegetation was mapped at two hierarchical levels, including: (1) 13 formation groups differentiating zonal and azonal systems; and (2) 21 geographic variants based on bioclimatic zonation and dominant species that characterize broad longitudinal regions or biogeographic provinces. Each of the geographic variants was described by identifying the dominant and characteristic species and its climatic and landscape characteristics, as well as references that relate to the unit.


Views of main zonal forest types of the Alaska-Yukon region.


Map of boreal vegetation (level 2) in the Alaska-Yukon region.

The report and maps are available at:

Jorgenson, M. T. and D. Meidinger. 2015. The Alaska-Yukon Region of the Circumboreal Vegetation Map. Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna,, Akureyri, Iceland. CAFF Strategies Series Report. ISBN: 978-9935-431-48-6, 39 p.


In the news

9 Feb. 2018. The Huffington Post published an article “The Arctic Refuge Still Bears Scars From Oil Exploration in the 1980s”, detailing the results of study by tundra ecologists, including Torre Jorgenson, that analyzed the potential impacts of seismic exploration in the Arctic Refuge.

6 May 2017. M. Torre Jorgenson was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Alaska Fairbanks on May 6, 2017 for his outstanding contribution to the fields of permafrost science, thereby greatly enhancing understanding of the Northern environment. From UAF News release: “Jorgenson has an international reputation as a permafrost scientist who has studied linkages in geomorphology, ecology, hydrology and soil science. His business, Alaska Ecoscience, is dedicated to studying the impacts of climate change on Alaska’s landscapes. Jorgenson’s contributions to UAF began as a camp manager at Toolik Field Station in 1977, which led him to earn a master’s degree in land resources management from UAF in 1986. His has contributed to oilfield impact assessments, land rehabilitation techniques, ecosystem and permafrost mapping, and coastal dynamics research. He has worked with many UAF graduate students and holds affiliate faculty positions with UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering and Institute of Arctic Biology.”


30 June 2016. Torre Jorgenson received the Wiley-Black Permafrost and Periglacial Permafrost Journal award for excellence in permafrost research at the International Conference on Permafrost (ICOP) at Postdam, Germany on 20 June 2016. The award was given in recognition of his major influence in bridging geocryology, thermokarst research and ecology, and stimulating research in permafrost as a unifying discipline for northern scholarship. He recently coauthored with Steve Kokelj a recent synthesis on thermokarst, which was the top-cited paper in the 2014 Impact Factor Period for PPP. In accepting the award he gave a keynote address at ICOP on permafrost-ecological interactions. A video of his acceptance speech for the award is posted at Youtube,

8 Dec. 2015. Up to a quarter of the permafrost that lies just under the ground surface in Alaska could thaw by the end of the century, releasing long-trapped carbon that could make its way into the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming, according to a new study by Neal Pastick, as reported by Climate Central of Scienctific American. The paper, co-authored by
Torre Jorgenson and others, was published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment. article

1 Dec. 2015. Dana Brown recently published a paper investigating how the warming climate reduces permafrost’s ability to recover following wildfires in Alaskan lowland forests. Her study, as part of her PhD research with Torre Jorgenson, was highlighted in Eos Earth & Space Science News. article

26 Nov. 2015. Alaska Daily News has an interview with Misha Kanevskiy, permafrost scientist at UAF, about his recent paper, co-authored with Torre Jorgenson in Geomorphology, on river erosion of extremely ice-rich Pleistocene permafrost (yedoma) in Northern Alaska. article

Nov. 12 2014. Alaska scientists used satellite images to look through clouds during storms and for the first time could see how far tidal flooding on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta extended inland. It was much farther than they imagined. In a radio new program by Daysha Eaton on APRN, Jorgenson said “It’s really extensive, it can go just about 20 miles inland during these really large storm events. So it covers a very large portion of the outer Delta”.
For APRN radio podcast podcast

For journal article in Arctic article