M245 Pacific Gulf Coastal Forest--Meadow Province


Southeast Alaska, Pacific Gulf Coast, eastern Kodiak Island, 23,900 mi2 (61,900 km2)


Land-surface form.--The Alexander Archipelago, with its hundreds of islands formed by the partly submerged western foothills of the Coast Range, makes up most of this province. The larger islands have mountains 3,000-5,000 ft (900-1,500 m) high, with slopes covered by dense forest where they are not too steep. Long, narrow bays carved into the mountains by glaciers create extremely irregular coastlines. Northward, at Prince Willam Sound and Kodiak Island, the foothills are mixed with coastal lowlands consisting of alluvial fans, uplifted estuaries, morainal deposits, dunes, and river deltas and terraces.

Mountain slopes along the coast of the Pacific Gulf Coastal Province, Prince of Wales Island, Tongass National Forest, Alaska. Mountain slopes along the coast of the Pacific Gulf Coastal Province, Prince of Wales Island, Tongass National Forest, Alaska.

Climate.--Though similar to that of the Pacific Coastal Mountains Province, the climate here is milder due to the region's generally lower elevation. At Sitka, Alaska, average monthly temperatures for January and August are approximately 28F and 50F (2C and 10C), respectively, for an annual temperature range of only 22F (8C). Precipitation, which averages 96 in (2,450 mm) per year, reaches a maximum in autumn.

Vegetation.--A coastal rainforest of Sitka spruce and western hemlock provides the dominant vegetation. In poorly drained areas, a wetland vegetation of sphagnum moss, sedges, and willows fosters peatland development. Alder, cottonwood, and birch are found in low-lying areas and along major river channels.

Soils.--The dominant soils are Spodosols.

Fauna.--A characteristic large mammal is the Sitka black-tailed deer. Other mammals include the brown bear, black bear, wolf, red squirrel, and moose. The mountain goat is common on mainland mountain heights, but not on the islands. Sea otters and Steller's sea lions are common throughout Prince William Sound.

A conspicuous and characteristic bird is the Alaska bald eagle. A small sea bird, the marbled murrelet, nests in the tall trees of old-growth forests. Water birds are well represented, including loons and ducks, and there are many gulls and other shore birds. Common land birds include the red-breasted sapsucker, Pacific-slope flycatcher, and golden-crowned kinglet, and both the red and white-winged crossbills. The entire population of dusky Canada geese nests within this province.

Fish are abundant in the waters, including several species of salmon.