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A world-wide study of high altitude treeline temperatures

Körner, Christian and Paulsen, Jens. (2004) A world-wide study of high altitude treeline temperatures. Journal of biogeography, Vol. 31, H. 5. pp. 713-732.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/dok/A5249088

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Abstract

Aim At a coarse scale, the treelines of the world`s mountains seem to follow a common isotherm, but the evidence for this has been indirect so far. Here we aim at underpinning this with facts. Location We present the results of a data-logging campaign at 46 treeline sites between 68degrees N and 42degrees S. Methods We measured root-zone temperatures with an hourly resolution over 1-3 years per site between 1996 and 2003. Results Disregarding taxon-, landuse- or fire-driven tree limits, high altitude climatic treelines are associated with a seasonal mean ground temperature of 6.7 degreesC (+/-0.8 SD; 2.2 K amplitude of means for different climatic zones), a surprisingly narrow range. Temperatures are higher (7-8 degreesC) in the temperate and Mediterranean zone treelines, and are lower in equatorial treelines (5-6 degreesC) and in the subarctic and boreal zone (6-7 degreesC). While air temperatures are higher than soil temperatures in warm periods, and are lower than soil temperatures in cold periods, daily means of air and soil temperature are almost the same at 6-7 degreesC, a physics driven coincidence with the global mean temperature at treeline. The length of the growing season, thermal extremes or thermal sums have no predictive value for treeline altitude on a global scale. Some Mediterranean (Fagus spp.) and temperate South Hemisphere treelines (Nothofagus spp.) and the native treeline in Hawaii (Metrosideros) are located at substantially higher isotherms and represent genus-specific boundaries rather than boundaries of the life-form tree. In seasonal climates, ground temperatures in winter (absolute minima) reflect local snow pack and seem uncritical. Main conclusions The data support the hypothesis of a common thermal threshold for forest growth at high elevation, but also reflect a moderate region and substantial taxonomic influence.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Ehemalige Einheiten Umweltwissenschaften > Pflanzenökologie (Körner)
UniBasel Contributors:Körner, Christian and Paulsen, Jens
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Bibsysno:Link to catalogue
Publisher:Blackwell Scientific Publications
ISSN:0305-0270
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Identification Number:
Last Modified:22 Mar 2012 14:25
Deposited On:22 Mar 2012 13:45

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