The advancing timberline on Mt. Fuji: natural recovery or climate change?

Abstract

The alpine timberline on Mt. Fuji (central Japan) is at 2,400–2,500 m above sea level. Over a 21-year period (1978–1999), we tracked changes in this vegetation boundary on a transect at a site impacted by the 1707 volcanic eruption. The timberline advanced rapidly upwards during this time period. Dominant tree species at the timberline (Alnus maximowiczii, Salix reinii, and Larix kaempferi) colonized sites that were initially largely free of vegetation at higher altitudes. Seedlings of L. kaempferi were particularly abundant at the border of advancing vegetation. According to tree age, we found that this was the first canopy species in the colonized areas. L. kaempferi is drought resistant, and this probably contributes to its establishment capability in the high-altitude climate. Most seedlings of Abies veitchii invaded patches of herbs and shrubs. These vegetation patches in the upper kampfzone provide important shelter for seedlings of invading tree species. We predict that the upward advance of the alpine timberline is a recovery process following the volcanic eruption, and that climate change may accelerate this advance.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10

References

  1. Akasaka M, Tsuyuzaki S (2005) Tree seedling performance in microhabitat along an elevational gradient on Mount Koma, Japan. J Veg Sci 16:647–654

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Callaway RM, Brooker RW, Choler P, Kikvidze Z, Lortie CJ, Michalet R, Paolini L, Pugnaire FI, Newingham B, Aschehoug ET, Armas C, Kikodze D, Cook BJ (2002) Positive interactions among alpine plants increase with stress. Nature 417:844–848

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Curtis PS, Wang X (1998) A meta-analysis of elevated CO2 effects on woody plant mass, form, and physiology. Oecologia 113:299–313

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Grabherr G, Gottfried M, Pauli H (1994) Climate effects on mountain plants. Nature 369:448

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Holtmeier FK (2009) Mountain timberline. Springer, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  6. Ito E (1964) Climate of Mt. Fuji. Bull Fac Agric Shizuoka Univ 14:177–187 (in Japanese)

    Google Scholar 

  7. Japan Meteorological Agency (2011). http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/menu/report.html

  8. Kullman L (2001) 20th century climate warming and tree-limit rise in the southern Scandes of Sweden. Ambio 30:72–80

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Maruta E (1996) Winter water relations of timberlime larch (Larix leptolepis Gord.) on Mt. Fuji. Trees 11:119–126

    Google Scholar 

  10. Maruta E, Masuyama K (2009) Elevation mechanism of timberline ecotone on the southern slope of Mt. Fuji. Mount Fuji Res 3:1–12

    Google Scholar 

  11. Masuzawa T (1985) Ecological studies on the timberline of Mt. Fuji I. Structure of plant community and soil development on the timberline. Bot Mag Tokyo 98:15–28

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Masuzawa T, Suzuki J (1991) Structure and succession of alpine perennial community (Polygonum cuspidatum) on Mt. Fuji. Proc NIPR Symp Polar Biol 4:155–160

    Google Scholar 

  13. Nakazawa T, Aoki S, Fukabori M, Tanaka M (1984) The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the summit of Mt. Fuji (3776 m), Japan. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 62:688–695

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Oka S (1980) On the deformation of larches on Mt. Fuji and their causal factors. J Geogr 89:97–112 (in Japanese with English summary)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Oka S (1992) The tree limit and its dynamics on the western and northwestern slopes of Mount Fuji, central Japan. Geogr Rep Tokyo Metrop Univ 27:1–28

    Google Scholar 

  16. Sakio H, Masuzawa T (1987) Ecological studies on the timberline of Mt. Fuji II. Primary productivity of Alnus maximowiczii dwarf forest. Bot Mag Tokyo 100:349–363

    Google Scholar 

  17. Sakio H, Masuzawa T (1992) Ecological studies on the timberline of Mt. Fuji III. Seasonal changes in nitrogen content in leaves of woody plants. Bot Mag Tokyo 105:47–52

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Sanz-Elorza M, Dana ED, Gonźalez A, Sobrino E (2003) Changes in the high-mountain vegetation of the Central Iberian Peninsula as a probable sign of global warming. Ann Bot 92:273–280

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Slatyer RO (1976) Water deficits in timberline trees in the snowy mountains of south-eastern Australia. Oecologia 24:357–366

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Sturm M, Racine C, Tape K (2001) Increasing shrub abundance in the Arctic. Nature 411:546–547

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Sunaga A, Mukai H, Machida T, Nojiri Y, Conway T, Masarie K, Crotwell A, Dlugokenchy EJ, White J, Vaughn B (2011) Comparison of co-located air samples at Mauna Loa Observatory and CO2 observations at Mt. Fuji. In: Abstract of 39th NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory 2011 Global Monitoring Annual Conference, P3

  22. Tanaka A, Yamamura Y, Nakano T (2008) Effects of forest-floor avalanche disturbance on the structure and dynamics of a subalpine forest near the forest limit on Mt. Fuji. Ecol Res 23:71–81

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Tranquillini W (1979) Physiological ecology of the alpine timberline—tree existence at high altitude with special reference to the European Alps. Springer, Berlin

    Google Scholar 

  24. Wardle P, Coleman MC (1992) Evidence for rising upper limits of four native New Zealand forest trees. N Z J Bot 30:303–314

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Yazaki K, Ishida S, Kawagishi T, Fukatsu E, Maruyama Y, Kitao M, Tobita H, Koike T, Funada R (2004) Effects of elevated CO2 concentration on growth, annual ring structure and photosynthesis in Larix kaempferi seedlings. Tree Physiol 24:941–949

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Yura H (1988) Comparative ecophysiology of Larix kaempferi (Lamb.) Carr. and Abies veitchii Lindle. I. Seedling establishment on bare ground on Mt. Fuji. Ecol Res 3:67–73

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Yura H (1989) Comparative ecophysiology of Larix kaempferi (Lamb.) Carr. and Abies veitchii Lindl. II. Mechanisms of higher drought resistance of seedlings of L. kaempferi as compared with A. veitchii. Ecol Res 4:351–360

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors are indebted to Dr. F. Konta for his advice, and to members of the Laboratory of Plant Ecology, Shizuoka University, for their kind assistance during field work. A part of this investigation was financed by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) (No. 19310008) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. We would also like to thank anonymous reviewers and an editor for very constructive comments and suggestions.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hitoshi Sakio.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sakio, H., Masuzawa, T. The advancing timberline on Mt. Fuji: natural recovery or climate change?. J Plant Res 125, 539–546 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10265-011-0465-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Abies veitchii
  • Age structure
  • Alpine
  • Climate change
  • Larix kaempferi
  • Seedling establishment