|© Br. Alfred Brousseau, Saint Mary's College|
Infrataxa: Some systematists recognize only 1 variety of boreal sagebrush as occurring in North America: A. norvegica Fries var. saxatilis (Bess.) Jepson [13,14,30,43]. Cronquist and others  suggest that additional varieties should possibly be recognized to account for boreal sagebrush in high arctic areas. Based primarily on distribution, plant size, size and shape of the flower heads, and pubescence color, some systematists recognize 2 additional subspecies of boreal sagebrush: A. norvegica Less ssp. beringensis (Hultén) Hultén and A. norvegica Fries ssp. comata (Rydb.) Welsh [33,35].
Within this review, "boreal sagebrush" refers to the species as a whole unless otherwise specified.SYNONYMS:
Infrataxa: Artemisia arctica ssp. beringensis only occurs in limited locations in the western Aleutians and the Bering Strait . Artemisia arctica ssp. comata occurs in the Northwest Territories west to Alaska and south to British Columbia and Alberta .ECOSYSTEMS :
inner fiord vegetation of Prince William Sound on open flats and slopes with larkspur monkshood (Aconitum delphiniifolium), Eschscholtz's buttercup (Ranunculus eschscholtzii), and Canadian burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis) 
alpine tundra sedge communities dominated by Bigelow sedge (C. bigelowii) 
in alpine tundra meadows boreal sagebrush is dominant along with mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and sidebells wintergreen (Orthilla secunda) 
exposed ridges in the Kenai Mountains in association with rough fescue (Festuca altaica), coiled sedge (C. circinata), Kamchatka rhododendron (Rhododendron camtschatium), and least willow (Salix rotundifolia) 
alpine Dryas vegetation type on upper slopes and summits of hills and mountains in the northwestern region of the state; this type is dominated by eightpetal mountain-avens (Dryas octopetala) and common associates include Chamisso's willow (S. chamissonis), marsh Labrador tea (Ledum palustre ssp. decumbens), northern bentgrass (Agrostis mertensii), and spruce muskeg sedge (C. lugens) 
early seral stage of succession along the Tanana River floodplains with scattered willows (S. interior and S. alaxensis) and Equisetum spp. (E. palustre, E. arvense, and E. variegatum) 
the following plant communities in the Sierra Nevada: alpine pussytoes (Antennaria alpina)-Sierra beardtongue (Penstemon heterodoxus), Sierra primrose (Primula suffrutescens)-Sargent's catchfly (Silene sargentii), and mountain willow (Salix eastwoodiae)-arrowleaf ragwort (Senecio triangularis) 
the following plant communities in the alpine tundra of the Rocky Mountain Front range: blackroot sedge (C. elynoides)- alpine clover (Trifolium dasphyllum) turf, creeping sibbaldia (Sibbaldia procumbens)-lesser spikemoss (Selaginella densa) snowbed, and tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa) meadows in association with Ross' avens (Geum rossii), white marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala), and whitish gentian (Gentiana algida) [11,17,65]
alpine "snow patch" communities in association with Ross' avens and Parry's clover (T. parryi) 
thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)-fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) subalpine communities 
lichen-grass communities in snow patches occurring above treeline in the Selwyn and Mackenzie Mountains; communities are dominated by tufted hairgrass, rough fescue, arctic bluegrass (Poa arctica), and darkbrown sedge (Carex atrofusca) 
diamond rough leaf willow (Salix pulchra)-field horsetail (E. arvense)-bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis) vegetation type in subalpine meadows 
late snowmelt communities in the subarctic alpine tundra in association with smallawned sedge (Carex microchaeta) and polar willow (S. pseudopolaris) 
Boreal sagebrush is a native, perennial, caespitose subshrub that grows from 2.0 to 5.9 inches (20-60 cm) in height [1,30,38,66]. Erect stems arise from a simple or branched caudex . Occasionally the plant produces short stolons [38,44]. Leaves are mainly basal, and are 0.8 to 7.9 inch (2-20 cm) long. The nodding inflorescence is raceme- or spike-like [1,30,38,66]. Marginal flowers are pistillate, and the central disc flowers are perfect . The fruit is a 1-seeded achene . Boreal sagebrush has a stout taproot [48,66].RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Pollination: Boreal sagebrush is pollinated by wind .
Breeding system: Boreal sagebrush is monoecious .
Seed production: No information is available on this topic.
Seed dispersal: The small seed size and papery seedcoat aid in wind dissemination of boreal sagebrush seeds. Wind transport of seeds appears to be an important means of dispersal in the subalpine and alpine areas where the sweep of the wind is unbroken by trees .
Seed banking: Artemisia species generally lack a long-lived seed bank .
Germination: Germination information specific to seeds of boreal sagebrush is limited; however, it is reported that seeds of Artemisia species in general require light and moist chilling for germination to occur . In 1 laboratory study, Baskin and Baskin  found that the optimum germination temperature of boreal sagebrush seeds was 64 °F (18 °C ).
Seedling establishment/growth: Although the literature reports that boreal sagebrush regenerates by seeds , information is lacking on the specifics of seedling establishment and growth.
Asexual regeneration: Although it is recorded that boreal sagebrush occasionally produces stolons [38,44], additional information on boreal sagebrush's regeneration capacity by stolons is lacking. Sprouting is rare in sagebrush species, but a few species do sprout . Further research is needed on the sprouting ability of boreal sagebrush.SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Complete elevational ranges of boreal sagebrush are not available for all areas in which it occurs. The following table summarizes reported elevational ranges of boreal sagebrush:
|AK||sea level to 6,562 feet (2,000 m) |
|CA||7,546 to 12,467 feet (2,300-3,800 m) |
|CO||11,000 to 13,000 feet (3,353-3,962 m) |
|Mount Rainier National Park, WA||5,500 to 7,500 feet (1,676-2,286 m) |
|Intermountain West||10,827 to 11,975 feet (3,300-3650 m) |
|BC||sea level to 9,843 feet (3,000 m) |
Fire regimes: In the literature, alpine and arctic tundra ecosystems tend to be considered concurrently when fire regimes are discussed . In this review, alpine and arctic tundra are discussed as one, generally following Rowe's  definition of tundra as the treeless vegetation of high latitudes and high elevations, usually characterized by lichens, sedges, and dwarf shrubs. Fire regimes of tundra ecosystems are not well understood, partly because fires in these systems are not common . The fire return interval may be as short as 100 years, but 500 years is probably more common [60,67]. Long fire return intervals in the tundra are probably related to the prevalence of cold, humid summers, saturated peat profiles, and the absence of continuous vegetation cover. Distribution of vegetation in the tundra is characterized by a patchy occurrence of dense vegetation, sparse vegetation, and bare ground which results in an "interrupted fuel bed" . Fires in tundra ecosystems are generally characterized by low- to moderate-severity surface fires that kill all aboveground plant parts but seldom destroy underground parts . Revegetation following fire is generally rapid and occurs primarily from vegetative sprouting of grasses and sedges, with some colonization of other species from windblown seed. Generally, tundra fires tend to be small in size, <120 acres (50 ha), but in exceptionally dry years tundra fires may cover 250,000 acres (101,000 ha) or more . These larger fire events are usually the result of fire spreading from nearby timber stands . Fires that occur on the forest-tundra edge may result in the loss of tree cover for long periods of time. The burned forest may be replaced by tundra for many decades because of the harsh environment and heavy regrowth of sedges and grasses that prevent establishment of conifers . Tundra fires ignite as soon as the snow melts and the vegetation dries. In the higher latitudes, this can be as early as mid-May or as late as the end of August. The long summer day length at these latitudes is conducive to melting snow and drying the vegetation. The possibility of fires starting late in the season is small because of the higher humidities associated with the shorter day length .
The high elevation Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir (Picea engelmannii-Abies lasiocarpa) ecosystems in which boreal sagebrush may occur are usually so cold and wet that they seldom burn except during extreme drought years . The fire regime is characterized by stand-replacement fires, generally at intervals of 100 to 400 years. Insect- and disease-related mortality and windthrow can result in heavy loadings of large woody fuels, which will support stand-replacement fires . In the Rocky Mountains these ecosystems often make up the forest component of the forest-alpine edge. Large fires that start in the spruce-fir forest can spread into the adjacent alpine zone, as discussed in the previous paragraph.
Fire regimes in Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine ecosystems can be quite variable. Boreal sagebrush is most likely to occur in openings or edges of the higher-elevation, cooler, wetter lodgepole stands, which typically have a regime of infrequent stand-replacing fires. The mean fire return intervals in these high-elevation stands generally range from 140 to 340 years . Dead wood decays slowly in these cool climates, resulting in a gradual accumulation of large fuels. However, it may require hundreds of years to accumulate enough fuel to sustain a spreading fire .
Fire regimes in California red fir (Abies magnifica) forests are dominated by low-and moderate-severity fires. Low-severity fires consume surface fuels and thin seedlings and saplings [56,57], and they commonly spread slowly . These low-severity fires may be frequent, but they tend to be small. The small fire size is probably attributable to a low overall vegetative productivity, a short fire season, and generally cool, moist conditions . It is estimated that the natural fire frequency in California red fir stands ranges from 21 to 65 years, but longer intervals of 126 years or more are possible. Moderate- and high-severity fires that initiate stand replacement do occur but are rare [56,57].
As of this writing (2006), fire ecology studies are lacking for boreal sagebrush. The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where boreal sagebrush occurs. Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|California red fir||Abies magnifica||21 to 126 [56,57]|
|tundra ecosystems||Deschampsia caespitosa, Carex bigelowii, Carex macrochaeta, Chamerion latifolium, Festuca altaica, Potentilla nana, Sibbaldia procumbens, Saxifraga spp., Trifolium dasphyllum, Vaccinium vitis-idaea||>100 to 500 [16,60,67]|
|Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir||Picea engelmannii-Abies lasiocarpa||35 to >200 |
|Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine*||Pinus contorta var. latifolia||25-340 [5,6,55]|
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
The effect of fire on boreal sagebrush is not well documented. Presumably the plant is killed when aboveground vegetation is killed by fire.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:
No additional information is available on this topic.
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
Information is lacking on the response of boreal sagebrush to fire. Further research is needed.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
There is no evidence that boreal sagebrush is capable of vegetative reproduction after fire. Although the plant occasionally produces stolons [38,44], the role stolons may play following fire is unknown. Presumably, reestablishment of boreal sagebrush occurs through establishment from windblown seed . Postfire recovery time has not been documented. Further research is needed.
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Information on boreal sagebrush and fire management is lacking. Further research is needed.
Palatability/nutritional value: Forage analysis of boreal sagebrush on Coronation Island, Alaska, was as follows :
Cover value: No information is available on this topic.VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
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