|Natural Region 38 |
Much of this region has little or no vegetation. Where continuous vegetation occurs, it usually consists of hummocks of mosses, lichens, grasses and sedges. The only woody species, the dwarf willow, grows as a dense twisted mat crawling along the ground. Vast areas appear completely devoid of life from a distance. But lichens and mosses cover the rocks; grasses grow around meltwater puddles, and the hilltops bare of snow are tinted with the warm living shades of red and brown.
For a region sparse in plant life, it boasts a surprising number of animals; polar bear, Peary caribou, muskox, collared lemming, arctic wolf, arctic fox, arctic hare and ermine in small, discontinuous populations concentrated around wet lowlands. Life is tenuous in this region.
An early snowfall that melts and then freezes, sealing vegetation beneath a layer of ice, can spell disaster.
Birds are more fortunate. They can fly away when times are rough. Snowy owls depend on lemmings as a food source. But lemming populations fluctuate on a four-year cycle. Luckily for the owls, each island is at a different phase of the cycle, meaning that they can simply fly off to another island where the hunting is good. The arctic foxes are not so lucky.
Birds abound here in summer, especially on the southern islands. The valleys and lowlands, bespeckled with meltwater ponds and puddles, provide nesting habitat for myriads of shorebirds and waterfowl: black-bellied plovers, knots, pectoral snadpipers, king eiders, greater snow geese, brant, old-squaw and red-throated loon, among others.
The only known nesting site of the ivory gull is found in this region and is protected as Seymour Island Migratory Bird Sancctuary (8 km2).
National Parks System Plan, 3rd Edition