Diurnal to decadal changes in the balance between vegetation and bare ground in Tasmanian fjaeldmark
Annandale, B and Kirkpatrick, JB, Diurnal to decadal changes in the balance between vegetation and bare ground in Tasmanian fjaeldmark, Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, 49, (3) pp. 473-486. ISSN 1523-0430 (2017) [Refereed Article]
Periglacial processes are active under current climatic conditions on the more exposed peaks and ridges of Tasmania’s high country. Non-sorted steps, stripes, and solifluction lobes with vegetated risers and bare treads have formed on many of the mountains capped in fissile sedimentary rocks. Any disturbance to the balance between vegetation and bare ground can result in biogeomorphic feedbacks leading to an increase or decrease in periglacial activity and thereby threaten the survival of fjaeldmark. We tested the hypotheses that vegetation helps create risers by capturing material moved by needle ice, water, and wind, and that the balance between vegetation and bare ground in fjaeldmark is dynamic in Tasmania at the decadal time scale. Repeat photo plots and temperature data loggers were employed to monitor the dynamism of two non-sorted lobes on Mount Rufus over a seven-month period. Diurnal freeze/thaw cycles resulted in needle ice formation on the bare treads and promoted downslope movement of the surface layer through frost creep. Vegetation was observed to reduce geomorphic activity and to capture soil and clasts transported downslope, thereby steepening the risers. Aerial photographic analysis showed a 0.065% per annum increase in vegetation cover in fjaeldmark since the mid-20th century. Mountains that had a high number of days with snow cover were especially prone to increases in vegetation cover. Decline in vegetation cover occurred on some mountains burned during the past century. The smallest changes occurred on the most exposed peaks and ridges.