Ecological Research

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 847–854

How the scrub height of dwarf pine Pinus pumila decreases at the treeline

Original Article


Plant height decreases much within narrow altitudinal spans near treelines. We compared the stem age, stem inclination and shoot elongation rates of alpine dwarf pine Pinus pumila between the upper distribution limit (treeline, 2,850 m a.s.l.) and the lower distribution limit (2,500 m a.s.l.) on Mount Norikura in central Japan, to examine how the growth traits of P. pumila change with altitude. The mean stem height at the upper distribution limit (49 cm) was about a quarter of that at the lower distribution limit (187 cm). The mean ratio of stem height to length was lower at the upper distribution limit than at the lower distribution limit, indicating that P. pumila stems inclined more at the higher altitude. The mean stem age at the upper distribution limit (48 years) was less than a half of that at the lower distribution limit (109 years). Although the shoot elongation rate positively correlated with stem length at the two altitudes, the shoot elongation rate at a given stem length was lower at the upper distribution limit than at the lower distribution limit. Thus, less developed scrub at the upper distribution limit than at the lower distribution limit was due to shorter stem age, more creeping stems and lower shoot elongation rates. Generally, wind velocity is greater in higher altitudes. Probably, strong wind reduces the growth and mean stem age of P. pumila stems at the upper distribution limit. Therefore, this study concludes that the scrub height of P. pumila is controlled not only by temperature, but also by strong wind.


Alpine dwarf pine Mount Norikura Stem height Shoot elongation Timberline 


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceShinshu UniversityMatsumotoJapan
  2. 2.Laboratory of Plant Molecular Biology, Graduate School of Biological ScienceNara Institute of Science and TechnologyIkomaJapan

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