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Vegetation Zonation and Conifer Dominance Along Latitudinal and Altitudinal Gradients in Humid Regions of the Western Pacific

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Structure and Function of Mountain Ecosystems in Japan

Part of the book series: Ecological Research Monographs ((ECOLOGICAL))

Abstract

In humid regions of the western Pacific, conifers and deciduous broadleaf trees dominate in colder climate while evergreen broadleaf trees dominate in warmer climate. There are two geographically discontinuous forest zones of conifer-dominated forests, i.e., boreal zone and temperate-to-tropical zone. Between them, there is a deciduous broadleaf forest zone with warm summer and cold winter (Kira’s warmth index, WI from 45 to 85 °C, and coldness index, CI <−15 °C). Boreal conifer forest is characterized by continental climate with short summer and cold winter (WI <45 °C and CI <−15 °C), whereas temperate-to-tropical conifer-dominated forests in both hemispheres are characterized by oceanic, moderate climate lacking severe winter (WI <144 °C and CI >−15 °C). Boreal conifer forests are distributed at high latitudes or altitudes in Japan (“subarctic or subalpine forest”). Temperate conifer forests occur in a narrow belt on the Pacific Ocean side in Japan and are more extensive and distributed to warmer climate at high altitudes in Taiwan and in temperate zone of New Zealand, where they are called “conifer-broadleaf” forests. These temperate conifer (or mixed) forests grade into tropical conifer forests at high altitudes in Southeast Asia and New Guinea. Thus, these forests may be collectively called “temperate-to-tropical conifer-mixed forests” in contrast to boreal conifer forest. It appears that relatively cool summer (or year-round low temperature on tropical mountains) limits the growth of evergreen broadleaf trees, while mild winter (or the absence of winter on tropical mountains) gives the competitive advantage to conifers over deciduous broadleaf trees, leading to conifer dominance in the temperate-to-tropical conifer-mixed forests.

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Acknowledgments

I thank Gaku Kudo and Takashi Kohyama for giving me the opportunity to write this chapter and for commenting on the manuscript. I-Fang Sun, Yu-Yun Chen, and Yoshiko Iida arranged my visit to Taiwan’s magnificent forests.

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Correspondence to Shin-ichiro Aiba .

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Aiba, Si. (2016). Vegetation Zonation and Conifer Dominance Along Latitudinal and Altitudinal Gradients in Humid Regions of the Western Pacific. In: Kudo, G. (eds) Structure and Function of Mountain Ecosystems in Japan. Ecological Research Monographs. Springer, Tokyo. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-4-431-55954-2_5

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