Treeline shift and tree growth often respond to climatic changes and it is critical to identify and quantify their dynamics. Some regions are particularly sensitive to climate change and the Altai Mountains, located in Central and East Asia, are showing unequivocal signs. The mean annual temperature in the area has increased by 1.3-1.7 degrees C in the last century. As this mountain range has ancient and protected forests on alpine slopes, we focus on determining the treeline structure and dynamics. We integrated in situ fine-scale allometric data with analyses from dendrochronological samples, high-resolution 3D drone photos and new satellite images to study the dynamics and underlying causal mechanisms of any treeline movement and growth changes in a remote preserved forest at the Aktru Research Station in the Altai Mountain. We show that temperature increase has a negative effect on mountain tree growth. In contrast, only younger trees grow at higher altitudes and we document a relatively fast upward shift of the treeline. During the last 52 years, treeline moved about 150 m upward and the rate of movement accelerated until recently. Before the 1950s, it never shifted over 2150-2200 m a.s.l. We suggest that a continuous upward expansion of the treeline would be at the expense of meadow and shrub species and radically change this high-mountain ecosystem with its endemic flora. This documented treeline shift represents clear evidence of the increased velocity of climate change during the last century.

Accelerating upward treeline shift in the Altai Mountains under last-century climate change

Battipaglia, Giovanna;
2019

Abstract

Treeline shift and tree growth often respond to climatic changes and it is critical to identify and quantify their dynamics. Some regions are particularly sensitive to climate change and the Altai Mountains, located in Central and East Asia, are showing unequivocal signs. The mean annual temperature in the area has increased by 1.3-1.7 degrees C in the last century. As this mountain range has ancient and protected forests on alpine slopes, we focus on determining the treeline structure and dynamics. We integrated in situ fine-scale allometric data with analyses from dendrochronological samples, high-resolution 3D drone photos and new satellite images to study the dynamics and underlying causal mechanisms of any treeline movement and growth changes in a remote preserved forest at the Aktru Research Station in the Altai Mountain. We show that temperature increase has a negative effect on mountain tree growth. In contrast, only younger trees grow at higher altitudes and we document a relatively fast upward shift of the treeline. During the last 52 years, treeline moved about 150 m upward and the rate of movement accelerated until recently. Before the 1950s, it never shifted over 2150-2200 m a.s.l. We suggest that a continuous upward expansion of the treeline would be at the expense of meadow and shrub species and radically change this high-mountain ecosystem with its endemic flora. This documented treeline shift represents clear evidence of the increased velocity of climate change during the last century.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11591/406974
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