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Forests 2018, 9(1), 7; doi:10.3390/f9010007

Elevational Shifts in the Topographic Position of Polylepis Forest Stands in the Andes of Southern Peru

1
Department of Biology, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland
2
Department of Geography and Geology, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland
3
Faculty of Geography, University of Marburg, Deutschhausstrasse 10, 35032 Marburg, Germany
4
Institute for Systematic Botany, University of Zürich, Zollikerstrasse 107, 8008 Zürich, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 27 October 2017 / Revised: 14 December 2017 / Accepted: 18 December 2017 / Published: 22 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue How Topography Impacts Forests under Global Change?)
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Abstract

The patchy distribution of high-Andean treeline forests has provoked discussion about the relative importance of anthropogenic and climatic causes of this pattern, both of which vary with topography. We aimed to understand the topographic controls on the distribution of Polylepis subsericans treeline forests in the Andes of southern Peru, and the changes in these controls along an elevational gradient. We mapped Polylepis forests in the Cordillera Urubamba, Cusco, using high-resolution aerial images and related forest cover to topographic variables extracted from a digital terrain model (30-m resolution). The variables were selected based on their expected biological relevance for tree growth at high elevations. We constructed logistic regression models of forest cover, separately for each of five 100-m elevational belts. To deal with spatial autocorrelation, models were based on randomized 10% subsampling of the data with 1000 repetitions. The results suggest a consistent shift in topographic preference with elevation, with forests at lower elevations showing a preference for topographically protected sites near rivers and forests at higher elevations being increasingly restricted to north-facing and well-drained sites. Our study offers the first indication of the ability of Andean treeline forests to benefit from the topographic heterogeneity of the high-Andes. Providing that dispersal and establishment are possible, local relocation between microsites could help these forests to persist regionally in spite of changing climatic conditions. View Full-Text
Keywords: topography; Polylepis; Andes; treeline; Peru; digital terrain model; topographic wetness index; morphometric protection index; exposure; exposition topography; Polylepis; Andes; treeline; Peru; digital terrain model; topographic wetness index; morphometric protection index; exposure; exposition
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Toivonen, J.M.; Gonzales-Inca, C.A.; Bader, M.Y.; Ruokolainen, K.; Kessler, M. Elevational Shifts in the Topographic Position of Polylepis Forest Stands in the Andes of Southern Peru. Forests 2018, 9, 7.

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