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Title: The altitude of alpine treeline: a bellwether of climate change effects

Author: Smith, William K.; Germino, Matthew J.; Johnson, Daniel M.; Reinhardt, Keith;

Date: 2009

Source: Botanical Review. 75: 163-190

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Because of the characteristically low temperatures and ambient CO2 concentrations associated with greater altitudes, mountain forests may be particularly sensitive to global warming and increased atmospheric CO2. Moreover, the upper treeline is probably the most stressful location within these forests, possibly providing an early bellwether of forest response. Most treeline studies of the past century, as well as recently, have correlated temperatures with the altitudinal limits observed for treelines. In contrast, investigations on pre-establishment seedlings, the most vulnerable life stage of most tree species, are rare. There appears to be specific microclimatic factors dictated by wind and sky exposure that limit seedling survival, and also generate the distorted tree forms commonly observed at treeline. Seedling survival appears critical for creating the biological facilitation of microclimate at the community level, which is necessary for the growth of seedlings to normal tree stature, forming new subalpine forest at a higher altitude.

Keywords: treeline, timberline, ecotone, seedling, facilitation, climate

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Smith,W.K.; Germino, M.J.; Johnson, D.M.; Reinhardt, K. 2009. The altitude of alpine treeline: a bellwether of climate change effects. Botanical Review. 75: 163-190.


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