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Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 289–297 | Cite as

Contribution of mass elevation effect to the altitudinal distribution of global treelines

  • Fang Zhao
  • Bai-ping ZhangEmail author
  • Shuo Zhang
  • Wen-wen Qi
  • Wen-hui He
  • Jing Wang
  • Yong-hui Yao
Article

Abstract

Alpine treeline, as a prominent ecological boundary between forested mountain slopes and alpine meadow/shrub, is highly complex in altitudinal distribution and sensitive to warming climate. Great efforts have been made to explore their distribution patterns and ecological mechanisms that determine these patterns for more than 100 years, and quite a number of geographical and ecophysiological models have been developed to correlate treeline altitude with latitude or a latitude related temperature. However, on a global scale, all of these models have great difficulties to accurately predict treeline elevation due to the extreme diversity of treeline site conditions. One of the major reasons is that “mass elevation effect” (MEE) has not been quantified globally and related with global treeline elevations although it has been observed and its effect on treeline elevations in the Eurasian continent and Northern Hemisphere recognized. In this study, we collected and compiled a total of 594 treeline sites all over the world from literatures, and explored how MEE affects global treeline elevation by developing a ternary linear regression model with intra-mountain base elevation (IMBE, as a proxy of MEE), latitude and continentality as independent variables. The results indicated that IMBE, latitude and continentality together could explain 92% of global treeline elevation variability, and that IMBE contributes the most (52.2%), latitude the second (40%) and continentality the least (7.8%) to the altitudinal distribution of global treelines. In the Northern Hemisphere, the three factors’ contributions amount to 50.4%, 45.9% and 3.7% respectively; in the south hemisphere, their contributions are 38.3%, 53%, and 8.7%, respectively. This indicates that MEE, virtually the heating effect of macro-landforms, is actually the most significant factor for the altitudinal distribution of treelines across the globe, and that latitude is relatively more significant for treeline elevation in the Southern Hemisphere probably due to fewer macro-landforms there.

Keywords

Alpine treeline Intra-mountain base elevation Multiple regression analysis Geographical factor Continentality Contribution rate 

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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fang Zhao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bai-ping Zhang
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Shuo Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wen-wen Qi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wen-hui He
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jing Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yong-hui Yao
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Resource and Environment Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and ApplicationNanjingChina

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