Multi-scale influences of slope aspect and spatial pattern on ecotonal dynamics at upper treeline in the southern rocky mountains, U.S.A

Grant P. Elliott, Kurt F. Kipfmueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations

Abstract

We focused on the mediating role of slope aspect and spatial pattern on upper treeline ecotonal dynamics at multiple spatial scales in the Southern Rocky Mountains to infer process interactions and gauge the importance of feedbacks in determining the potential response of upper treeline to climate change on contrasting south- and north-facing slopes. Dendroecological techniques were used to reconstruct tree establishment within the upper treeline ecotone and Ripley's K was used for spatial pattern analysis. Tree age was determined by using age to coring-height corrections, and the influence of slope aspect was quantitatively assessed at multiple spatial scales using Mann-Whitney U-Tests. Widespread tree establishment occurred within the treeline ecotone on both south- and north-facing slopes during the 20th century, but tree ages above timberline are significantly younger on north-facing slopes at all spatial scales (local, landscape, and regional). The spatial pattern of tree establishment above timberline was predominantly random, except for significant clustering on south-facing slopes in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The aspect mediation of tree age and spatial pattern suggest that the importance of feedbacks may vary according to slope aspect and that both of these environmental factors should be considered when assessing possible treeline response to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-56
Number of pages12
JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Volume42
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2010

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