With autumn creeping up on us at home, I’ll bring to you a series on our fieldwork in the amazing autumn of the Arctic in Abisko. This is part I.
It started off so amazingly beautiful. After we landed in Kiruna airport (the hub to the Swedish Arctic) on the last day of August, we entered a world of yellow, yellow as far as the eye could see.
The subarctic is a world of birches, prosaically called Betula pubescens czerepanovii, more poetically called the mountain birch. And in autumn they do what they do best: turn the world into a magical place.
Our first hike in this world of yellow would bring us on to Nuolja, the mountain overlooking the valley of Abisko. A steep climb, I’ll warn you, on a little track that on wet days looks more like a stream in parts, with water tumbling up and over slippery rocks.
But the views, oh the views, they make up for the whole effort. You hike right above lake Torneträsk, the immensely long lake that defines the whole water cycle of the area.
At the top, our experiment awaited us. Installed in spring 2015, when we dropped a bunch of seeds in gaps in the vegetation, the plants were now fully grown. We hoped to see variation in their success at different elevations, with all kinds of different factors affecting this success.
Long story short, we did find what we were looking for. Imagine the relief if you come back to your experiment after leaving it alone for so long, to see the plants did exactly what they should do, and maybe even better! More on that later, when the data are analysed.
In the meantime, we ended up high above the tree line, but even there the colours did not disappoint. Let me tell you one thing: autumn is easily the best moment to visit the subarctic.
However, autumn would not be autumn if not for some sudden weather changes.
The nice sunny weather got as easily replaced by scary rain clouds as the other way around. Sun, rain, sun, rain, not very enjoyable during fieldwork, but perfect for the views.
Luckily, there is this nice little trick performed by Mount Nuolja: it blocks of most of the rain clouds rolling in from Norway, sheltering the valley from excessive rain most of the time.
If you are at the correct side of the mountain – and Abisko is – you are thus often protected from the wrath from the West.
Our way down, happy because of the first successful day of fieldwork, thus again bathed in a beautiful light.
God, I love the Arctic!
All pictures from this day are also in the picture gallery on the right. Enjoy!