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Swiss Tree Lines – a GIS-Based Approximation

Landscape Online | Volume 28 | 2012 | Pages: 1-18| DOI:10.3097/LO.201228 | Published: September 18th, 2012

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Swiss Tree Lines – a GIS-Based Approximation

Erich Szerencsits1

1Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station ART, Agricultural Landscapes and
Biodiversity, Reckenholzstrasse 191; CH-8046 Zürich; +41 (0)44 377 7469, +41 (0)44 377 7111,
Erich.Szerencsits@art.admin.ch

Mountain timber lines are relevant in the context of land abandonment and climate change. For Switzerland, GIS-compliant delimitations of the tree line and the forest line are still lacking. Recent high-resolution landcover information offers new possibilities for GIS-based approaches. In a Swiss-wide study, an analysis based on slope zones was combined with a moving-window analysis to assess tree and forest line altitude, using topographic data. The tree and the forest lines were delimited at the upper altitude reached by a tree or closed forest respectively. The model delivered a fine-scaled delimitation sensitive to local conditions. The results indicate that earlier studies underestimated the tree line altitudes for the fringes of the Alps. Also the variability inside climatic and bio-geographical regions is larger than it was estimated up to now.

 

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