Alaska North Slope Tundra Travel Model and Validation Study

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Description

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Mining, Land, and Water manages cross-country travel, typically associated with hydrocarbon exploration and development, on Alaska's arctic North Slope. This project is intended to provide natural resource managers with objective, quantitative data to assist decision making regarding opening of the tundra to cross-country travel. DNR designed standardized, controlled field trials, with baseline data, to investigate the relationships present between winter exploration vehicle treatments and the independent variables of ground hardness, snow depth, and snow slab thickness, as they relate to the dependent variables of active layer depth, soil moisture, and photosynthetically ... continued below

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Bader, Harry R. & Guimond, Jacynthe March 1, 2006.

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This report is part of the collection entitled: Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports and was provided by UNT Libraries Government Documents Department to Digital Library, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. More information about this report can be viewed below.

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  • Alaska
    Place of Publication: Alaska

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Description

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Mining, Land, and Water manages cross-country travel, typically associated with hydrocarbon exploration and development, on Alaska's arctic North Slope. This project is intended to provide natural resource managers with objective, quantitative data to assist decision making regarding opening of the tundra to cross-country travel. DNR designed standardized, controlled field trials, with baseline data, to investigate the relationships present between winter exploration vehicle treatments and the independent variables of ground hardness, snow depth, and snow slab thickness, as they relate to the dependent variables of active layer depth, soil moisture, and photosynthetically active radiation (a proxy for plant disturbance). Changes in the dependent variables were used as indicators of tundra disturbance. Two main tundra community types were studied: Coastal Plain (wet graminoid/moist sedge shrub) and Foothills (tussock). DNR constructed four models to address physical soil properties: two models for each main community type, one predicting change in depth of active layer and a second predicting change in soil moisture. DNR also investigated the limited potential management utility in using soil temperature, the amount of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) absorbed by plants, and changes in microphotography as tools for the identification of disturbance in the field. DNR operated under the assumption that changes in the abiotic factors of active layer depth and soil moisture drive alteration in tundra vegetation structure and composition. Statistically significant differences in depth of active layer, soil moisture at a 15 cm depth, soil temperature at a 15 cm depth, and the absorption of photosynthetically active radiation were found among treatment cells and among treatment types. The models were unable to thoroughly investigate the interacting role between snow depth and disturbance due to a lack of variability in snow depth cover throughout the period of field experimentation. The amount of change in disturbance indicators was greater in the tundra communities of the Foothills than in those of the Coastal Plain. However the overall level of change in both community types was less than expected. In Coastal Plain communities, ground hardness and snow slab thickness were found to play an important role in change in active layer depth and soil moisture as a result of treatment. In the Foothills communities, snow cover had the most influence on active layer depth and soil moisture as a result of treatment. Once certain minimum thresholds for ground hardness, snow slab thickness, and snow depth were attained, it appeared that little or no additive effect was realized regarding increased resistance to disturbance in the tundra communities studied. DNR used the results of this modeling project to set a standard for maximum permissible disturbance of cross-country tundra travel, with the threshold set below the widely accepted standard of Low Disturbance levels (as determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). DNR followed the modeling project with a validation study, which seemed to support the field trial conclusions and indicated that the standard set for maximum permissible disturbance exhibits a conservative bias in favor of environmental protection. Finally DNR established a quick and efficient tool for visual estimations of disturbance to determine when investment in field measurements is warranted. This Visual Assessment System (VAS) seemed to support the plot disturbance measurements taking during the modeling and validation phases of this project.

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  • Report No.: none
  • Grant Number: FG26-03NT41790
  • DOI: 10.2172/881572 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 881572
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc885699

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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Creation Date

  • March 1, 2006

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

Description Last Updated

  • Dec. 29, 2017, 1:50 a.m.

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Bader, Harry R. & Guimond, Jacynthe. Alaska North Slope Tundra Travel Model and Validation Study, report, March 1, 2006; Alaska. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc885699/: accessed June 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.