IMAGES: On Top of the World

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Science  02 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5654, pp. 21d
DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5654.21d

Seen from above the North Pole, Earth seems to have male pattern baldness, with a barren pate fringed by vegetation. Now researchers have compiled the first detailed map showing which hardy plants inhabit the far north. The Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map, available at this site from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, describes 400 plant communities covering 7.1 million square kilometers. Eleven years in the making, the chart will provide a baseline for a region that is changing rapidly due to shifting climate and accelerating development. Scientists from six nations layered data from existing maps and field surveys onto infrared satellite imagery. Link to the related Circumpolar Arctic Geobotanical Atlas for more maps that depict soil pH, plant biomass, and other data.

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