We studied effects of oil and gas exploration, using the most recent seismic exploration technologies, on tundra plant communities and soils in four vegetation types in the Low Arctic of western Canada, two to three years post-disturbance. For all four vegetation types, seismic lines had less vascular plant cover and more bare ground than adjacent “reference” tundra. For the two upland tundra vegetation types, mosses and lichens were less abundant on seismic lines than in reference plots. There were no apparent differences in organic layer thickness between seismic lines and reference areas, but active layer depth (at the time of sampling) was significantly greater on seismic lines for the upland tundra and one of the wetland vegetation types. Diversity and richness were lower, and community composition was different, on seismic lines (as compared to reference plots) in upland tundra vegetation types but not in wetland types. The results suggest that (1) upland vegetation types are less resistant to seismic disturbance, (2) active layer depth increases following seismic disturbance, and (3) impacts from modern seismic techniques in upland tundra are similar to, or somewhat greater than, the initial impacts observed from the earliest phases of winter exploration ∼30 years ago.
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Vol. 41 • No. 2