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Treeline advance – driving processes and adverse factors

Landscape Online | Volume 1 | 2007 | Pages: 1-33| DOI:10.3097/LO.200701 | Published: June 29th, 2007

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Treeline advance – driving processes and adverse factors

Friedrich-Karl Holtmeier1* Gabriele Broll2

1 Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, Robert-Koch-Straße 26,D-48149 Münster, Germany, Email: fkholtmeier@arcor.de

2Division of Geo- and Agroecology, ISPA, University of Vechta, P.O. Box 1553, D-49364 Vechta, Germany, Email: gbroll@ispa.uni-vechta.de

*corresponding author: fkholtmeier@arcor.de

The general trend of climatically-driven treeline advance is modified by regional, local and temporal variations. Treelines will not advance in a closed front parallel to the shift of any isotherm to higher elevations and more northern latitudes. The effects of varying topography on site conditions and the after-effects of historical disturbances by natural and anthropogenic factors may override the effects of slightly higher average temperatures. Moreover, the varying treeline-forming species respond in different ways to a changing climate. Forest advance upwards and northwards primarily depends on successful regeneration and survival of young growth rather than on increasing growth rates of mature trees. Every assessment of treeline response to future climate change must consider the effects of local site conditions and feedbacks of increasing tree population in modulating the climatically-driven change. Treeline-shift will influence regional and local climates, pedogenesis, plant communities, animal populations and biodiversity as well as having a considerable effect on economic changes in primary production. A better understanding of the functional relationships between the many treeline-relevant factors and treeline dynamics can be achieved only by extensive research at different scales within different climatic regions supported by as many as possible experimental studies in the field together with laboratory and remote sensing techniques.

 

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