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Gorge Creek area photo pair
Photo Credits: Fred Dean (1976), Carl Roland (2005)
Ecoregion: Alaska Range Mountains
Change Type: No apparent changes
No apparent changes
This pair of photos was taken from the air looking east up Gorge Creek canyon near the Eielson Visitor Center . The slope in the foreground supports alpine tundra with a small, but obvious, patch of bright green alder shrubs. Note the hummocky patterned ground that is evident in both photos (but more obvious in the 1976 photo). These surface features are formed through the process of "solifluction" or the down slope movement of surface sediments in a saturated condition that occurs with repeated freezing and thawing of soils in a cold environment. The olive drab areas of these photos is alpine heath vegetation common on north-facing slopes, dominated by species such as Cassiope tetragona and Empetrum nigrum. This photo pair does not reveal any obvious visible changes in the vegetation pattern. However, because of the small size of tundra plants changes can be difficult to discern from aerial photos. Future change in response to a warming climate may include expansion of shrubs (i.e. outward growth of the alder thicket shown here) or reduction in the distribution of alpine heath vegetation due to earlier snowmelt and warmer soil conditions.