Next Article in Journal
Influence of Canopy Interception and Rainfall Kinetic Energy on Soil Erosion under Forests
Next Article in Special Issue
Leaf and Soil δ15N Patterns Along Elevational Gradients at Both Treelines and Shrublines in Three Different Climate Zones
Previous Article in Journal
Hydrochemical Fluxes in Bulk Precipitation, Throughfall, and Stemflow in a Mixed Evergreen and Deciduous Broadleaved Forest
Previous Article in Special Issue
Microsite Effects on Physiological Performance of Betula ermanii at and Beyond an Alpine Treeline Site on Changbai Mountain in Northeast China
Open AccessReview

Effects of Climate Change at Treeline: Lessons from Space-for-Time Studies, Manipulative Experiments, and Long-Term Observational Records in the Central Austrian Alps

1
Department of Alpine Timberline Ecophysiology, Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape (BFW), Rennweg 1, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
2
Department of Botany, Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, Sternwartestraße15, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2019, 10(6), 508; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10060508
Received: 20 May 2019 / Revised: 6 June 2019 / Accepted: 10 June 2019 / Published: 14 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Alpine and Polar Treelines in a Changing Environment)
This review summarizes the present knowledge about effects of climate change on conifers within the treeline ecotone of the Central Austrian Alps. After examining the treeline environment and the tree growth with respect to elevation, possible effects of climate change on carbon gain and water relations derived from space-for-time studies and manipulative experiments are outlined. Finally, long-term observational records are discussed, working towards conclusions on tree growth in a future, warmer environment. Increases in CO2 levels along with climate warming interact in complex ways on trees at the treeline. Because treeline trees are not carbon limited, climate warming (rather than the rising atmospheric CO2 level) causes alterations in the ecological functioning of the treeline ecotone in the Central Austrian Alps. Although the water uptake from soils is improved by further climate warming due to an increased permeability of root membranes and aquaporin-mediated changes in root conductivity, tree survival at the treeline also depends on competitiveness for belowground resources. The currently observed seedling re-establishment at the treeline in the Central European Alps is an invasion into potential habitats due to decreasing grazing pressure rather than an upward-migration due to climate warming, suggesting that the treeline in the Central Austrian Alps behaves in a conservative way. Nevertheless, to understand the altitude of the treeline, one must also consider seedling establishment. As there is a lack of knowledge on this particular topic within the treeline ecotone in the Central Austrian Alps, we conclude further research has to focus on the importance of this life stage for evaluating treeline shifts and limits in a changing environment. View Full-Text
Keywords: treeline; climate change; ecosystem manipulation; space-for-time substitution; long-term trends; Central Austrian Alps treeline; climate change; ecosystem manipulation; space-for-time substitution; long-term trends; Central Austrian Alps
Show Figures

Figure 1

MDPI and ACS Style

Wieser, G.; Oberhuber, W.; Gruber, A. Effects of Climate Change at Treeline: Lessons from Space-for-Time Studies, Manipulative Experiments, and Long-Term Observational Records in the Central Austrian Alps. Forests 2019, 10, 508.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats
Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Access Map by Country/Region

1
Back to TopTop