CR 73:135-150 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01465

Drivers of treeline shift in different European mountains

Pavel Cudlín1,*, Matija Klopčič2, Roberto Tognetti3,4, Frantisek Máliš5,6, Concepción L. Alados7, Peter Bebi8, Karsten Grunewald9, Miglena Zhiyanski10, Vlatko Andonowski11, Nicola La Porta12, Svetla Bratanova-Doncheva13, Eli Kachaunova13, Magda Edwards-Jonášová1, Josep Maria Ninot14, Andreas Rigling15, Annika Hofgaard16, Tomáš Hlásny17, Petr Skalák1,18, Frans Emil Wielgolaski19

1Global Change Research Institute CAS, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, České Bude˘jovice 370 05, Czech Republic
2University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Department of Forestry and Renewable Forest Resources, Slovenia
3Dipartimento di Bioscienze e Territorio, Iniversità degli Studio del Molise, Contrada Fonte Lappone, 86090 Pesche, Italy
4MOUNTFOR Project Centre, European Forest Institute, 38010 San Michele all´Adige (Trento), Italy
5Technical University Zvolen, Faculty of Forestry, 960 53 Zvolen, Slovakia
6National Forest Centre, Forest Research Institute Zvolen, 960 92 Zvolen, Slovakia
7Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC), Apdo. 13034, 50080 Zaragoza, Spain
8WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, 7260 Davos Dorf, Switzerland
9Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development, 01217 Dresden, Germany
10Forest Research Institute, BAS 132, Kl. Ohridski Blvd. 1756 Sofia, Bulgaria
11Faculty of Forestry, University Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Skopje, Macedonia
12Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione Edmund Mach (FEM) and MOUNTFOR Project Centre, European Forest Institute, 38010 San Michele all´Adige (Trento) Italy
13Division of Ecosystem Research, IBER-Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria
14University of Barcelona, Department of Plant Biology, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
15WSL Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Zürcherstrasse 111, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
16Norwegian Institute of Nature Research, 7485 Trondheim, Norway
17Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences, 165000 Prague, Czech Republic
18Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, 143 06 Prague, Czech Republic
19University of Oslo, 0316 Oslo, Norway
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: A growing body of evidence suggests that processes of upward treeline expansion and shifts in vegetation zones may occur in response to climate change. However, such shifts can be limited by a variety of non-climatic factors, such as nutrient availability, soil conditions, landscape fragmentation and some species-specific traits. Many changes in species distributions have been observed, although no evidence of complete community replacement has been registered yet. Climatic signals are often confounded with the effects of human activity, for example, forest encroachment at the treeline owing to the coupled effect of climate change and highland pasture abandonment. Data on the treeline ecotone, barriers to the expected treeline or dominant tree species shifts due to climate and land use change, and their possible impacts on biodiversity in 11 mountain areas of interest, from Italy to Norway and from Spain to Bulgaria, are reported. We investigated the role of environmental conditions on treeline ecotone features with a focus on treeline shift. The results showed that treeline altitude and the altitudinal width of the treeline ecotone, as well as the significance of climatic and soil parameters as barriers against tree species shift, significantly decreased with increasing latitude. However, the largest part of the commonly observed variability in mountain vegetation near the treeline in Europe seems to be caused by geomorphological, geological, pedological and microclimatic variability in combination with different land use history and present socio-economic relations.


KEY WORDS: Vegetation zone shift · Climate change · Climate models · Treeline ecotone · European mountains · Ecosystem services


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Cite this article as: Cudlín P, Klopcˇicˇ M, Tognetti R, Máliš F and others (2017) Drivers of treeline shift in different European mountains. Clim Res 73:135-150. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01465

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