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Alpine treeline of western North America: linking organism-to-landscape dynamics.


George P. Malanson
David R. Butler
Daniel B. Fagre
Stephen J. Walsh
Diana F. Tomback
Lori D. Daniels
Lynn M. Resler
William K. Smith
Daniel J. Weiss
Andrew G. Bunn
Christopher A. Hiemstra
Daniel Liptzin
Patrick S. Bourgeron
Zehao Shen



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Northwest Research Station


Physical Geography. 28(5): 378-396


Although the ecological dynamics of the alpine treeline ecotone are influenced by climate, it is an imperfect indicator of climate change. Mechanistic processes that shape the ecotone—seed rain, seed germination, seedling establishment and subsequent tree growth form, or, conversely tree dieback&#151depend on microsite patterns. Growth forms affect wind and snow, and so develop positive and negative feedback loops that create these microsites. As a result, complex landscape patterns are generated at multiple spatial scales. Although these mechanistic processes are fundamentally the same for all forest-tundra ecotones across western North America, factors such as prior climate, underlying geology and geomorphology, and genetic constraints of dominant tree species lead to geographic differences in the responses of particular ecotones to climate change.


Malanson, George P.; Butler, David R.; Fagre, Daniel B., et al. 2007. Alpine treeline of western North America and global climate change: linking organism-to-landscape dynamics. Physical Geography. 28(5): 378-396

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