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Potential Effects of Climate Change on Treeline Position in the Swedish Mountains

Jon Moen, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeň University
Karin Aune, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeň University
Lars Edenius, Dept of Animal Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Anders Angerbj÷rn, Department of Zoology, Stockholm University

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Abstract

Climate change may strongly influence species distribution and, thus, the structure and function of ecosystems. This paper describes simulated changes in the position of the upper treeline in the Swedish mountains in response to predicted climate change. Data on predicted summer temperature changes, the current position of the treeline, and a digital elevation model were used to predict the position of the treeline over a 100-year timeframe. The results show the treeline advancing upward by 233–667 m, depending on the climate scenario used and location within the mountain chain. Such changes hypothetically caused a 75–85% reduction in treeless alpine heaths, with 60–93% of the remaining areas being scree slopes and boulder fields. For this change to occur, the migration rate of the trees would be in the order of 23–221 m yr-1, which is well within published migration rates for wind-dispersed deciduous trees. The remaining alpine areas would be strongly fragmented. These drastic changes would influence all aspects of mountain ecosystems, including biodiversity conservation and human land-use patterns.

Key words

Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii, Climate change, Mountain birch, Treeline dynamics
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087