125 Bering Tundra (Northern) Province

Seward Peninsula, Yukon-Kuskokwim coastal lowland, 46,900 mi2 (121,500 km2)

Land-surface form.--The Bering Tundra is a western extension of the arctic coastal plain, a broad lowland area rising gradually to the east. General topography is less than 1,000 ft (300 m) in elevation, broken in places by small mountain groups that rise 2,500-3,500 ft (800-1,100 m). Standing water is present in thousands of shallow lakes and marshes along the coast. Two large braided rivers, the lower Yukon and the Kuskokwim, flow out of the province to the southwest.

Climate.--The climate is less severe in the Bering Tundra than on the arctic slope, but it also has cold winters and generally cool summers. Temperatures range from a high of 90F (32C) in summer to a low of -70F (-57C) in winter. Annual precipitation averages 17 in (430 mm).

Vegetation.--Vegetation along the wet coastal areas is chiefly sedge and cottongrass; woody plants grow on higher sites. Birch-willow-alder thickets are extensive in transition zones between beach and forest. The lower Yukon and Kuskokwim Valleys are dominated by white spruce mixed with cottonwood and balsam poplar in tall, relatively dense stands, with a dense undergrowth of thinleaf alder, willow, rose, dogwood, and various species of berry bushes.

Soils.--Coastal soils are wet, cool Inceptisols over silt, sand, and marine sediments. The lower Yukon and Kuskokwim Valley bottoms have pockets of Entisols with no soil horizons. Ground water throughout the area is limited, but some is present in the major river valleys. Surface water on the Seward Peninsula ceases to flow in winter, but further south it flows year-round. Permafrost is continuous under most of the area.

Fauna.--River bottom lands provide excellent habitat for furbearers, game birds, and moose. Upland and coastal areas support brown and black bear, wolf, wolverine, coyote, caribou, reindeer, snowshoe hare, red fox, lynx, beaver, moose, squirrels, mice, weasel, mink, and marten. Along the northern Bering Sea coast, polar bear, walrus, and arctic fox are occasionally found.

Coastal areas provide extensive and excellent habitat for migrating waterfowl and shore birds. Other bird species in the area include ospreys, falcons, grouse, ravens, golden eagles, and various hawks and owls.