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

Jon Moen, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University
Karin Aune, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University
Lars Edenius, Dept of Animal Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Anders Angerbjörn, Department of Zoology, Stockholm University


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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

Copyright © 2004 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087