NPS Photo - Kathi Quinn
Grasses and sedges dominate the tundra of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, growing alongside the community of wildflowers, mosses, lichens, and shrubs that make up the regional biome. Sedges are the largest plant genus in the state, with over 150 species, subspecies, and varieties recognized. They play a vital role in the ecology of the tundra, helping to support the food web, nutrient cycles, and productive systems of the environment, while also providing a habitat for small rodents, insects, and birds.
Perhaps the most familiar tundra sedge is Alaska Cotton (Eriophorum scheuchzeri), one of 14 species of cotton grass in the state. The most common is Tall Cotton Grass (Eriophorum angustifolium). These thrive in damp tundra environments and often make up the round tussocks that dot the landscape and make hiking in the summer such a challenge! Though they have a short growing season, grasses and sedges release their seeds in the fall where they will survive under the snow all winter and sprout again during spring thaw.
Did You Know?
A lightning strike ignites a fire in the preserve. The fire burns for a week and then rain puts it out. In about 7 years, a visitor could walk on the burned site having no idea there once was a fire under his or her feet. This speedy site re-vegetation is typical of tundra fire adapted ecosystems.