A century of tree line changes in sub-Arctic Sweden shows local and regional variability and only a minor influence of 20th century climate warming
Abstract: Aim Models project that climate warming will cause the tree line to move to higher elevations in alpine areas and more northerly latitudes in Arctic environments. We aimed to document changes or stability of the tree line in a sub-Arctic model area at different temporal and spatial scales, and particularly to clarify the ambiguity that currently exists about tree line dynamics and their causes. Location The study was conducted in the Tornetrask area in northern Sweden where climate warmed by 2.5 degrees C between 1913 and 2006. Mountain birch (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii) sets the alpine tree line. Methods We used repeat photography, dendrochronological analysis, field observations along elevational transects and historical documents to study tree line dynamics. Results Since 1912, only four out of eight tree line sites had advanced: on average the tree line had shifted 24 m upslope (+0.2 m year-1 assuming linear shifts). Maximum tree line advance was +145 m (+1.5 m year-1 in elevation and +2.7 m year-1 in actual distance), whereas maximum retreat was 120 m downslope. Counter-intuitively, tree line advance was most pronounced during the cooler late 1960s and 1970s. Tree establishment and tree line advance were significantly correlated with periods of low reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) population numbers. A decreased anthropozoogenic impact since the early 20th century was found to be the main factor shaping the current tree line ecotone and its dynamics. In addition, episodic disturbances by moth outbreaks and geomorphological processes resulted in descent and long-term stability of the tree line position, respectively. Main conclusions In contrast to what is generally stated in the literature, this study shows that in a period of climate warming, disturbance may not only determine when tree line advance will occur but if tree line advance will occur at all. In the case of non-climatic climax tree lines, such as those in our study area, both climate-driven model projections of future tree line positions and the use of the tree line position for bioclimatic monitoring should be used with caution.
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A century of tree line changes in sub-Arctic Sweden shows local and regional
- Twentieth century tree line changes in Swedish sub-Arctic Abstract 1 Models project that climate warming will cause the treeline to move to higher 2 elevations in alpine areas and more northerly latitudes in Arctic environments, also known as Running head.
- The lack of 446 recent tree (>2 m) establishment and the browsing scars documented in the tree rings 447 indicated that, in addition to moth herbivory, reindeer browsing is still a controlling 448 factor at these sites (Fig. 5, Table 4).
- Previous field studies on observed treeline shifts and their presumed causes in the Torneträsk area of sub-Arctic Sweden.
- Browsing damage was classified visually and for five sites also by dendrochronological analysis (the values listed in brackets).
- So as not to bias the results, Mount Nuolja (site S3), for which the two treeline sites were not randomly selected, was not included in the calculation of the mean elevational shift of the treeline in the Torneträsk area.
- Pearson correlation coefficients and R2-values (the proportion of explained variance in documented treeline shifts) obtained by forward selection of the different variables are listed at the bottom of the table.
- The Torneträsk study area in sub-Arctic Sweden.
- The locations of the historical transects and photo points that have been revisited to study changes in the tree line ecotone are indicated.
- The statistically-determined 30%-tree cover isoline is plotted in yellow.
- Upper photo on the left: E. Persson, bottom left: B. Mesch; upper and bottom right: R. Van Bogaert.
- Fig. 8. Tree (>2 m) establishment at the Torneträsk tree line versus summer (June- August) temperature and reindeer population numbers for the period 1800-2000.
- Historical transects and photo points that have been revisited to study changes in the tree line ecotone are indicated.
- The statistically-determined 30% tree-cover isoline is plotted in yellow.
- Upper photo: E. Persson, lower photo: S. Johnsson.
- Upper photo on the left: E. Persson, bottom left: B. Mesch; upper and bottom right: R. Van Bogaert. relation to disturbance (b) and summer temperature (c) for the period 1964-2006.
- August) temperature and reindeer population numbers for the period 1800-2000.
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"A century of tree line changes in s..." refers background in this paper
...In contrast to Harsch et al. (2009) who concluded that the role of disturbance during recent climate warming is restricted to determining when tree line advance will occur, this study shows that disturbance and its after-effects may equally well determine ı́f tree line advance will occur at all....
...As the location of elevational and polar tree lines is mainly caused by heat deficiency, in the Northern Hemisphere climate warming is expected to cause tree lines to advance to higher elevations and more northerly latitudes (Harsch et al., 2009)....
...…widely held expectations of vegetation responses to warming, i.e. that Arctic tree lines will move northwards and elevational tree lines upslope (Harsch et al., 2009), this study documented highly varying tree line dynamics for the Torneträsk area in sub-Arctic Sweden during a period of…...
...A global study by Harsch et al. (2009) showed that only 52% of all 166 global tree line sites had advanced over the past 100 years despite documented amplified climate warming at high-elevation areas and northern latitudes (ACIA, 2005)....
"A century of tree line changes in s..." refers result in this paper
...In contrast to other studies (Danby & Hik, 2007; Kullman & Öberg, 2009), slope aspect and inclination were not correlated with elevational shifts of the tree line ecotone....
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