Alpine Vegetation Research

Science Center Objects

In 2003, USGS scientists joined the GLobal Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA) network in establishing vegetation plots at four alpine summits in Glacier National Park, MT, USA.  Vegetation and temperature data collected at the GLORIA sites are used to understand trends in species diversity, composition, abundance, and temperature from climate sensitive alpine ecosystems across the globe. From 2000-2019, USGS scientists provided oversight of the periodic, intensive inventories that contribute to this world-wide biodiversity monitoring network. 

GLORIA sites within Glacier National Park

GLORIA sites within Glacier National Park (Credit: USGS. Public domain.)

The GLORIA network aims to provide standardized, quantitative data on vegetation and habitat characteristics across major alpine climate zones on Earth. The global, long-term dataset creates an understanding of climate-driven indicators that impact alpine vegetation and biodiversity and provides information for developing strategies of conservation and mitigation.  Glacier National Park is one of sixty-nine target regions that define the global network. The GLORIA multi-summit approach to monitoring  includes Glacier National Park summits of Seward (2717 m),  Dancing Lady (2245 m), Pitamakin (2493 m), and Bison (2387 m) Mountains. 

Alpine summits often support a great variety of vegetation species despite harsh environmental conditions. Glacier NP

Alpine summits often support a great variety of vegetation species despite harsh environmental conditions. Bison Mountain GLORIA plot, Glacier National Park, Montana. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.)

GLORIA protocol calls for plant surveys at these four mountain summits every five years during peak alpine plant growing season in late July and August.  Each aspect of the summit is inventoried for plant species presence and abundance  using a combination of broad area surveys and focused meter plots to record alpine plant species presence/absence, species turnover, and trends in species abundance. Temperature loggers, buried at each summit aspect and the highest peak of the mountain summit , record annual hourly soil temperature. To track interannual variability, the USGS established an additional band of vegetation plots below the summit plots for Dancing Lady (2010) and Pitamakin (2011).  These bands were inventoried yearly from 2010 through 2014.  The “data” tab provides a link to comprehensive data for each mountain summit for monitoring years between 2003 – 2019. Questions regarding ongoing or future GLORIA efforts in Glacier National Park may be directed to Dawn LaFleur, Restoration Biologist, Glacier National Park (Dawn_lafleur@nps.gov). 

 

Additional Links: 

GLORIA website 

GLORIA protocol 

Global distribution of GLORIA sites.

Global distribution of GLORIA sites. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.)

Scientists collect alpine plant species and distribution data in Glacier National Park

Scientists collect alpine plant species and distribution data to complete a GLORIA site inventory on the summit of Seward Mountain, Glacier National Park, Montana.

(Credit: USGS. Public domain.)