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New study reveals unexpected relationship between climate warming and advancing treelines
Date:8/12/2009

at regardless of form, location or degree of temperature change experienced over the last century, treeline positions have either advanced or remained static.

"Surprisingly these results reveal that treelines are not universally responding to climate warming by advancing, as expected," said Harsch, "However they demonstrate the importance of temperature on treeline advance over other factors such as disturbance, latitude, scale, elevation and distance to the ocean; none of which demonstrated strong relationships with the probability of treeline advance."

Another surprising result of this study was the association with winter, rather than summer, warming. These results provide no evidence of the prevailing view that high altitude and latitude treelines are controlled only by summer temperatures. Instead they show that treelines are more likely to advance at sites that had warmed during the winter months. It is known, at least in northern latitudes that climate-associated changes in winter conditions are on average more extreme than changes in summer conditions.

"These results show that treelines are responding to warming, but are not consistent in that only half of the sites showed signs of advance despite most sites experiencing warming. Several studies on plant species' responses to climate warming have shown mixed results and this study provides a possible explanation both winter and summer conditions control treeline position," concluded Harsch. "Our expectations of response depend upon which factors are limiting the current treeline distribution. Where summer temperature is the primary limiting factor we can expect to continue seeing advance, but at other sites treeline advance is unlikely to occur until other limiting factors are first lessened."


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Contact: Ben Norman
Benorman@wiley.com
44-012-437-70375
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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