September 30, 2016

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Alaska Arctic Vegetation Archive (AVA-AK)

A publically available database of vegetation data from the Alaskan Arctic tundra.

The Science

The Arctic Vegetation Archive (AVA) was developed in response to a goal set by the intergovernmental Arctic Council of eight Arctic nations to better understand the biodiversity and distribution of vegetation across the circumpolar Arctic.

The Impact

An intergovernmental partnership to compile available arctic vegetation data can be leveraged to quantify and model the biodiversity and distribution of vegetation across the Arctic, now and in the future.


The AVA was conceived by the Flora Group of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the biodiversity working group of the intergovernmental Arctic Council, with the goal of compiling available plot-level vegetation data to better understand the distribution of vegetation across the Arctic tundra. Each Arctic nation is tasked with developing a portion of the evolving pan-Arctic vegetation archive. The U.S. contribution, the AVA-AK was begun in 2013. To date, the AVA-AK contains more than 3,000 nonoverlapping vegetation plots from the Arctic portion of Alaska, with georeferenced locations and associated environmental data ranging from slope and altitude, to edaphic conditions, to plot-level microrelief (i.e., microtopography as in basically just small-scaled features). Plant species in the AVA-AK encompass both vascular and nonvascular plants, and span Arctic vegetation communities ranging from wet tundra to dwarf shrubs to alpine communities to snowbeds. The AVA-AK database is freely available through a web-based portal at the Alaska Arctic Geoecological Atlas (, housed at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. A preliminary cluster analysis of the data in the AVA-AK indicates the database can be used to predict patterns of vegetation composition across Alaskan tundra in relation to soil moisture and acidity, geography, and ecological affiliation. Furthermore,  data in the AVA-AK can provide a baseline of vegetation distribution across Arctic Alaska for use in terrestrial biosphere models. The Department of Energy’s Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE)–Arctic project joined this international collaboration and contributed species and functional type cover, along with habitat and edaphic conditions, from vegetation censuses conducted during Phase 1 of NGEE-Arctic at Intensive Site 1 on the Barrow Environmental Observatory in Barrow, Alaska. In Phase 2, NGEE-Arctic will contribute data from the Seward Peninsula, Alaska, to help address existing gaps in the AVA-AK database (e.g., large areas of Arctic Alaska not associated with permanent Arctic observatories).

Principal Investigator

Amy Breen
University of Alaska

Program Manager

Daniel Stover
U.S. Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research (SC-33)
Environmental System Science


Data collected by Sloan et al., 2014, were funded as part of the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE)–Arctic project by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The AVA-AK was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment.

Related Links


Walker, D. A., A. L. Breen, L. A. Drunkenmiller, and L. W. Wirth, et al. "The Alaska Arctic Vegetation Archive (AVA-AK)". Phytocoenologia 46 (2), 221–229  (2016).

Sloan, V. L., J. D. Brooks, S. J. Wood, and J. A. Liebig, et al. "Plant community composition and vegetation height, Barrow, Alaska, Ver. 1". Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory [Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments Arctic Data Collection], U.S. NGEE-Arctic Record ID: NGA057 (2014).