Although cryptogamic covers are important ecosystem engineers in high Arctic tundra, they were often neglected in vegetation surveys. Hence we conducted a systematic survey of cryptogamic cover and vascular plant coverage and composition at two representative, but differing Arctic sites (Ny-angstrom lesund, Svalbard) along catenas with a natural soil moisture gradient, and integrated these data with physical-chemical soil properties. Soil samples were taken for comprehensive pedological and mineralogical analyses. Vegetation surveys were conducted based on classification by functional groups. Vascular plants were identified to species level. Correlation and multivariate statistical analysis were applied to determine the key environmental factors explaining vegetation patterns along the soil moisture gradients. We observed significant differences in gravimetric water, soil organic matter and nutrient contents along the moisture gradients. These differences were coincident with a shift in vegetation cover and species composition. While chloro- and cyanolichens were abundant at the drier sites, mosses dominated the wetter and vascular plants the intermediate plots. Twenty four vascular plant species could be identified, of which only six were present at both sites. Cryptogamic covers generally dominated with maximum areal coverage up to 70% and hence should be considered as a new additional syntaxon in future ground-truth and remote sensing based vegetation surveys of Svalbard. Multivariate analysis revealed that soil moisture showed the strongest relation between vegetation patterns, together with NH4-N and pH. In conclusion, soil moisture is a key driver in controlling cryptogamic cover and vegetation coverage and vascular plant species composition in high Arctic tundra.