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Encyclopedia > Tree line
In this view of an alpine tree line, the distant line looks particularly sharp. The foreground shows the transition from trees to no trees. These trees are stunted and one-sided because of cold and winds.
In this view of an alpine tree line, the distant line looks particularly sharp. The foreground shows the transition from trees to no trees. These trees are stunted and one-sided because of cold and winds.

The tree line or timberline is the edge of the habitat at which trees are capable of growing. Beyond the tree line, they are unable to grow due to inappropriate environmental conditions. In May 2001, User:Ke4roh snapped this picture of the tree-line at Berthoud Pass, Colorado (elevation 3,446m (11,307 feet)) near Rocky Mountain National Park, looking west. ... In May 2001, User:Ke4roh snapped this picture of the tree-line at Berthoud Pass, Colorado (elevation 3,446m (11,307 feet)) near Rocky Mountain National Park, looking west. ... The coniferous Coast Redwood, the tallest tree species on earth. ...


At the tree line, tree growth is often very stunted, with the last trees forming low, densely matted bushes. If it is caused by wind, it is known as krummholz formation, from the German for 'twisted wood'. A Krumholtz or Krummholz formation (from German: krumm, twisted; and holz, wood) is a feature of subarctic and subalpine tree line landscapes, where continual exposure to fierce, freezing winds cause vegetation to become stunted and deformed. ...


The tree line, like many other natural lines (lake boundaries, for example), appears well-defined from a distance, but upon sufficiently close inspection, it is a gradual transition. Trees grow shorter towards the inhospitable climate until they simply stop growing. For other uses, see Lake (disambiguation). ...

Contents

Types of tree lines

There are several types of tree lines defined in ecology and geology: For the journal, see Ecology (journal). ... This article includes a list of works cited but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ...

  • Alpine tree line The highest elevation which sustains trees; higher up, it is too cold or snow cover persists for too much of the year, to sustain trees. Usually associated with mountains, the climate above the tree line is called an alpine climate. Mountains of the Pacific Northwest of North America exhibit lower treelines on north-facing slopes than south-facing slopes, because increased shade results in slow melting of the deep snowpack, and thus a shorter growing season for trees.
  • Desert tree line The driest places that trees can grow; drier desert areas having insufficient rainfall to sustain trees. These tend to be called the "lower" tree line and occur below about 5000 ft (1500 m) elevation in the Desert Southwestern United States. The desert treeline tends to be lower on pole-facing slopes than equator-facing slopes, because the increased shade on a pole-facing slope keeps those slopes cooler and prevents moisture from evaporating as quickly, giving trees a longer growing season and more access to water.
  • Desert-Alpine tree line In some mountainous areas, higher elevations above the condensation line or on south-facing in the northern hemisphere and north-facing in the southern hemisphere, or leeward slopes can result in low rainfall and increased exposure to solar radiation. This dries out the soil, resulting in a localized arid environment unsuitable for trees. The slopes of Mauna Loa above 10,000 ft in Hawaii are an example of this. Many south-facing ridges of the mountains of the Western U.S. have a lower treeline than the northern faces due to increased sun exposure and aridity.
  • Exposure tree line On coasts and isolated mountains, the tree line is often much lower than in corresponding altitudes inland and in larger, more complex mountain systems, because strong winds reduce tree growth. In addition, the lack of suitable soil, such as along talus slopes or exposed rock formations prevent trees from gaining an adequate foothold and expose them to drought and sun.
  • Arctic tree line The furthest north in the Northern Hemisphere that trees can grow; further north, it is too cold to sustain trees. Extremely cold temperatures can result in freezing of the internal sap of trees, killing those trees. In addition, permafrost in the soil can prevent trees from getting their roots deep enough for the necessary structural support.
  • Antarctic tree line The furthest south in the Southern Hemisphere that trees can grow; further south, it is too cold to sustain trees. It is a theoretical concept that does not have any defined location. No trees occur on Antarctica or the sub-antarctic islands, and there are no land masses to the north that have a true treeline.
  • Other tree lines The immediate environment is too extreme for trees to grow. This can be caused by geothermal exposure associated with hot springs, such as at Yellowstone, or near volcanoes, high soil acidity near bogs, high salinity associated with playas or salt lakes, or ground that is too saturated by ground water which excludes oxygen from the soil, which most tree roots need for growth. The margins of muskegs and bogs are common examples of these types of open areas. However, no such line exists for swamps, where trees, such as Bald cypress and the many mangrove species, are adapted to growing in permanently waterlogged soil.

Elevation histogram of the surface of the Earth – approximately 71% of the Earths surface is covered with water. ... For other uses, see Mountain (disambiguation). ... For the climate of the mountains named the Alps, see climate) for a region above the tree-line. ... The Pacific Northwest from space The Pacific Northwest, abbreviated PNW, or PacNW is a region in the northwest of North America. ... Snow is a type of precipitation in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. ... This article is about arid terrain. ... In meteorology, precipitation is any kind of water that falls from the sky as part of the weather. ... Regional definitions vary from source to source. ... For other uses, see Condensation (disambiguation). ... Mauna Loa map Mauna Loa is an active shield volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, one of five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii. ... Official language(s) English, Hawaiian Capital Honolulu Largest city Honolulu Area  Ranked 43rd  - Total 10,931 sq mi (29,311 km²)  - Width n/a miles (n/a km)  - Length 1,522 miles (2,450 km)  - % water 41. ... For other uses, see Coast (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Wind (disambiguation). ... Scree or detritic cone is a term given to broken rock that appears at the bottom of crags, mountain cliffs or valley shoulders. ... Compass rose with north highlighted and at top Look up North in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Northern hemisphere highlighted in yellow. ... In geology, permafrost or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water (0°C or 32°F) for two or more years. ... A compass rose with South highlighted South is most commonly a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography. ... southern hemisphere highlighted in yellow (Antarctica not depicted). ... The sub-antarctic islands are the islands in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. ... Yellowstone National Park is a U.S. National Park located in the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. ... This article is about volcanoes in geology. ... Lütt-Witt Moor, a bog in Henstedt-Ulzburg in northern Germany. ... Playas may refer to: Playa Playas, New Mexico Playas, Ecuador This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... A salt lake or saline lake is a landlocked body of water which has a concentration of salts (mostly sodium chloride) and other minerals significantly higher than most lakes (often defined as at least 3,000 milligrams of salt per liter). ... General Name, symbol, number oxygen, O, 8 Chemical series nonmetals, chalcogens Group, period, block 16, 2, p Appearance colorless (gas) pale blue (liquid) Standard atomic weight 15. ... For other uses, see Root (disambiguation). ... Muskeg is a soil type (also a peatland or wetland type called a bog) common in arctic and boreal areas. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Species Taxodium ascendens - Pond Cypress Taxodium distichum - Bald Cypress Taxodium mucronatum - Montezuma Cypress Taxodium is a genus of one to three species (depending on taxonomic opinion) of extremely flood-tolerant conifers in the cypress family, Cupressaceae, one of several genera in the family commonly known as cypresses. ... Above and below water view at the edge of the mangal. ...

Typical vegetation

Severe winter climate conditions at alpine tree line causes stunted krummholz growth. Karkonosze, Poland.
Severe winter climate conditions at alpine tree line causes stunted krummholz growth. Karkonosze, Poland.
Dahurian Larch growing close to the Arctic tree line in the Kolyma region, Arctic northeast Siberia.
Dahurian Larch growing close to the Arctic tree line in the Kolyma region, Arctic northeast Siberia.

Some typical arctic and alpine tree-line tree species (note the predominance of conifers): Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1500x1001, 357 KB) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Tree-line MaÅ‚y Szyszak Wikipedia:Featured pictures thumbs 04 Wikipedia:Featured picture candidates/October-2005 Wikipedia:Featured... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1500x1001, 357 KB) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Tree-line MaÅ‚y Szyszak Wikipedia:Featured pictures thumbs 04 Wikipedia:Featured picture candidates/October-2005 Wikipedia:Featured... Aerial view over the Karkonosze The Karkonosze (Polish; pronounced kár-ko-no-she) or KrkonoÅ¡e (Czech; IPA: ) is a mountain range in the Sudetes in Central Europe. ... Image File history File links Larix_gmelinii0. ... Image File history File links Larix_gmelinii0. ... Binomial name Larix gmelinii (Rupr. ... Orders & Families Cordaitales † Pinales   Pinaceae - Pine family   Araucariaceae - Araucaria family   Podocarpaceae - Yellow-wood family   Sciadopityaceae - Umbrella-pine family   Cupressaceae - Cypress family   Cephalotaxaceae - Plum-yew family   Taxaceae - Yew family Vojnovskyales † Voltziales † The conifers, division Pinophyta, are one of 13 or 14 division level taxa within the Kingdom Plantae. ...

Binomial name Abies lasiocarpa (Hooker) Nuttall The Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa) is a western North American fir, native to the mountains of Yukon, British Columbia and western Alberta in Canada; southeastern Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, northeastern Nevada, and the Trinity Alps in... Binomial name Larix lyallii Parlatore Subalpine Larch (Larix lyallii), or simply Alpine Larch, is a coniferous tree native to northwestern North America. ... Binomial name Picea engelmannii Parry ex Engelm. ... Binomial name Pinus albicaulis Engelm. ... Binomial name Pinus longaeva D.K.Bailey The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) is one of the bristlecone pines, a group of three species of pine found in the higher mountains of the southwest United States. ... Binomial name Pinus aristata Engelm. ... Binomial name Pinus balfouriana Balf. ... Binomial name Larix gmelinii (Rupr. ... Binomial name Pinus culminicola Andresen & Beaman Potosi Pinyon (Pinus culminicola) is a pine in the pinyon pine group, native to northeast Mexico. ... Binomial name Pinus peuce Griseb. ... Binomial name Pinus cembra Linnaeus 1753 The Swiss Pine or Arolla Pine (Pinus cembra; family Pinaceae) is a species of pine tree that occurs in the Alps and Carpathian Mountains of central Europe, in Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania. ... Binomial name Pinus mugo Turra Mountain Pine or Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo) is a high altitude European pine, found in the Pyrenees, Alps, Erzgebirge, Carpathians, northern Appennines and Balkan Peninsula mountains from (mostly) 1,000 m to 2,200 m, occasionally as low as 200 m in the north of... Binomial name Lindl. ... Binomial name Betula pubescens Ehrh. ... Polylepis is a genus of trees and shrubs restricted to the Andes of South America. ... Binomial name Eucalyptus pauciflora Sieber ex Spreng. ... The Nothofagus Antarctica is commonly called the Southern or Antarctic Beech or the nire. ... Binomial name Picea mariana The Black Spruce (Picea mariana) is a common coniferous tree in North America. ...

Worldwide distribution

Alpine tree lines

The alpine tree line at a location is dependent on local variables, such as aspect of slope, rain shadow and proximity to either geographical pole. In addition, in some tropical or island localities, the lack of biogeographical access to species that have evolved in a sub-alpine environment, can result in lower tree lines than one might expect by climate alone. In geography, aspect generally refers to the direction to which a mountain slope faces. ... For the television series see Rain Shadow. ... A geographical pole is either of two fixed points on the surface of a spinning body or planet, at 90 degrees from the equator, based on the axis around which a body spins. ...


Given this caveat, here is a list of approximate tree lines from locations around the globe:

Location Approx. latitude Approx. elevation of tree line Notes
(m) (ft)
Sweden 68°N 800 2600
Norway 61°N 1100 3600 Lower near the coast
Olympic Mountains WA, USA 47°N 1500 5000 Heavy winter snowpack buries young trees until late summer
Swiss Alps 46°N 2100 7000 Higher in the southern side of the Alps.
Alps of Piedmont, Northwestern Italy 45°N 2100 7000
Rila 42°N 2300 7700 Mountain Pine is the most common tree line species
New Hampshire, USA 44°N 1220 4000 Some peaks with lower treelines due to fire and subsequent loss of soil.
Wyoming, USA 43°N 3000 10000
Utah, USA 40°N 2900 9500
Rocky Mountain NP, USA 40°N 3500 11500 On warm southwest slopes
2400 10800 On northeast slopes
Japanese Alps 39°N 2900 9500
Yosemite, USA 38°N 3200 10500 West side of Sierra Nevada
3600 11800 East side of Sierra Nevada
Popocatepetl, Mexico 28°N 4000 13000
Himalaya 28°N 4400 14400
Hawaii, USA 20°N 2800 9000 Precipitation low above the trade winds
Costa Rica 9.5°N 3400 11200
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania 3°S 3000 10000 Example of a tropical location lacking biogeographical access to species that are evolved for living in a subalpine environment. Thus, the tolerance of the indigenous species is lower and it results in a lower tree line
New Guinea 6°S 3900 13000
Andes, Peru 11°S 3900 13000 East side; on west side tree growth is restricted by dryness
Andes, Bolivia 18°S 5200 17000 Western Cordillera; highest treeline in the world on the slopes of Sajama Volcano (Polylepis tarapacana)
4100 13000 Eastern Cordillera; treeline is lower due to lower solar radiation (more humid climate)
Sierra de Córdoba, Argentina 31°S 2000 6500 Precipitation low above trade winds, also high exposure
Australian Alps, Australia 36°S 2000 6500 West side of Australian Alps
1700 5500 East side of Australian Alps
South Island, New Zealand 43°S 1200 4000 Strong maritime influence serves to cool summer and restrict tree growth

The Olympic Mountains The Olympic Mountains are a mountain range on the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington in the United States. ... The Swiss Alps are the central portion of the Alps mountain range that lies within Switzerland. ... For other uses, see Piedmont (disambiguation). ... Rila as seen from the space Rila as seen from Kostenets Malyovitsa (right), Little Malyovitsa (left) and the Eaglet (middle) Rila (Bulgarian: ) is a mountain range in southwestern Bulgaria and the highest mountain range of Bulgaria and the Balkans, with its highest peak being Musala at 2,925 m. ... Binomial name Pinus mugo Turra Mountain Pine or Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo) is a high altitude European pine, found in the Pyrenees, Alps, Erzgebirge, Carpathians, northern Appennines and Balkan Peninsula mountains from (mostly) 1,000 m to 2,200 m, occasionally as low as 200 m in the north of... Official language(s) English Capital Concord Largest city Manchester Area  Ranked 46th  - Total 9,350 sq mi (24,217 km²)  - Width 68 miles (110 km)  - Length 190 miles (305 km)  - % water 4. ... Official language(s) English Capital Cheyenne Largest city Cheyenne Area  Ranked 10th  - Total 97,818 sq mi (253,348 km²)  - Width 280 miles (450 km)  - Length 360 miles (580 km)  - % water 0. ... This article is about the U.S. state. ... Rocky Mountain National Park is located in the north-central region of the U.S. state of Colorado. ... Shirouma peaks (Hida Mountains) Tateyama peaks (Hida Mountains) Lake Hakuba The Kiso Mountains between Nagoya and Naoetsu The Japanese Alps is a mountain range in Japan that bisects the main island of Honshu. ... Yosemite National Park (pronounced Yo-SEM-it-ee, IPA: ) is a national park located largely in Mariposa and Tuolumne Counties, California, United States. ... This article is about the mountain range in the Western United States. ... Popocatépetl (commonly referred to as Popo) is an active volcano and the second highest peak in Mexico after Pico de Orizaba (5,610m). ... Perspective view of the Himalaya and Mount Everest as seen from space looking south-south-east from over the Tibetan Plateau. ... Official language(s) English, Hawaiian Capital Honolulu Largest city Honolulu Area  Ranked 43rd  - Total 10,931 sq mi (29,311 km²)  - Width n/a miles (n/a km)  - Length 1,522 miles (2,450 km)  - % water 41. ... Image:Atmospheric circulatlion. ... For other uses, see Kilimanjaro (disambiguation). ... This article is about the mountain system in South America. ... This article is about the mountain system in South America. ... The Sierra de Córdoba (sometimes called the Sierras de Córdoba) is a mountain range in central Argentina, located between the Pampas to the east and south, the Chaco to the north and the foothills of the Andes to the west. ... The trade winds are a pattern of wind found in bands around Earths equatorial region. ... Looking across everlastings on Mt Hotham to Mt Feathertop; during winter these mountains are blanketed in snow The Australian Alps The Australian Alps are the highest mountain ranges of mainland Australia. ... The South Island The South Island is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand, the other being the more populous North Island. ... For other uses, see Summer (disambiguation). ...

Arctic tree lines

Like the alpine tree lines shown above, polar tree lines are heavily influenced by local variables such as aspect of slope and degree of shelter. In addition, permafrost has a major impact on the ability of trees to place roots into the ground. When roots are too shallow, trees are susceptible to windthrow and erosion. Trees can often grow in river valleys at latitudes where they could not grow on a more exposed site. Maritime influences such as ocean currents also play a major role in determining how far from the equator trees can grow. Here are some typical polar treelines: In geography, aspect generally refers to the direction to which a mountain slope faces. ... In geology, permafrost or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water (0°C or 32°F) for two or more years. ... This article is about the physical-geographic term. ... An ocean current is any more or less permanent or continuous, directed movement of ocean water that flows in one of the Earths oceans. ...

Location Approx. longitude Approx. latitude of tree line Notes
Norway 24°E 70°N The North Atlantic current makes Arctic climates in this region warmer than other coastal locations at comparable latitude. In particular the mild winters prevents permafrost.
West Siberian Plain 75°E 66°N
Central Siberian Plateau 102°E 72°N Extreme continental climate means the summer is warm enough to allow tree growth at higher latitudes, extending to 72°30'N at Ary-Mas (102° 27' E) in the Novaya River valley, a tributary of the Khatanga River.
Russian Far East (Kamchatka and Chukotka) 160°E 60°N The Oyashio Current and strong winds affect summer temperatures to prevent tree growth. The Aleutian Islands are almost completely treeless.
Alaska 152°W 68°N Trees grow north to the south facing slopes of the Brooks Range. The mountains block cold air coming off of the Arctic Ocean.
Northwest Territories, Canada 132°W 69°N Reaches north of the Arctic Circle due to the continental nature of the climate and warmer summer temperatures.
Nunavut 95°W 61°N Influence of the very cold Hudson Bay moves treeline southwards.
Quebec 72°W 56°N Very strong influence of the Labrador Current on summer temperatures. In parts of Labrador, the treeline extends as far south as 53°N.
Greenland 50°W 64°N Determined by experimental tree planting in the absence of native trees due to isolation from natural seed sources; a very few trees are surviving, but growing slowly, at Søndre Strømfjord, 67°N.

Schematic of the worlds ocean currents. ... In geology, permafrost or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water (0°C or 32°F) for two or more years. ... The West Siberian Plain (Russian: За́падно-Сиби́рская равни́на) is a large plain that occupies the western portion of Siberia in Russia, between the Ural Mountains in the west and the Yenisei River in the east. ... The Central Siberian Plateau (ru: Среднесиби́рское плоского́рье) is a part of Siberia. ... Regions containing a continental climate exist in portions of Northern Hemisphere continents, and also at higher elevations in certain other parts of the world. ... The Khatanga River (Хатанга in Russian) is a river in Taymyria (Krasnoyarsk Krai) in Russia. ... Far Eastern Federal District (highlighted in red) Russian Far East (Russian: Д́альний Вост́ок Росс́ии; English transliteration: Dalny Vostok Rossii) is an informal term that refers to the Russian part of the Far East, i. ... “Kamchatka” redirects here. ... The Chukchi Peninsula, Chukotski Peninsula or Chukotsk Peninsula, at about 66° North, 169° East, is the northeastern extremity of Asia. ... Aleutians seen from space The Aleutian Islands (possibly from Chukchi aliat, island) are a chain of more than 300 small volcanic islands forming an island arc in the Northern Pacific Ocean, occupying an area of 6,821 sq mi (17,666 km²) and extending about 1,200 mi (1,900... Official language(s) None[1] Spoken language(s) English 85. ... For the former United States territory, see Northwest Territory. ... Motto: Nunavut Sannginivut (Inuktitut: Nunavut our strength or Our land our strength) Capital Iqaluit Largest city Iqaluit Official languages Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English, French Government - Commissioner Ann Meekitjuk Hanson - Premier Paul Okalik (Consensus government) Federal representation in Canadian Parliament - House seats 1 (Nancy Karetak-Lindell) - Senate seats 1 (Willie Adams) Confederation... Hudson Bay, Canada. ... This article is about the Canadian province. ... The Labrador Current is a cold current in the north Atlantic Ocean which flows from the Arctic Ocean south along the coast of Labrador and passes around Newfoundland, continuing south along the east coast of Nova Scotia. ... Labrador (also Coast of Labrador) is a region of Atlantic Canada. ... Map of Greenland Kangerlussuaq is a settlement in west Greenland at the head of a fjord of the same name. ...

Antarctic tree lines

Kerguelen Island, Île Saint-Paul, South Georgia, and other Sub-Antarctic islands are all so heavily wind exposed and marginal in climate, that none have any indigenous tree species, although many such islands receive enough rainfall that they would otherwise be capable of hosting temperate rain forest. However, these are not directly related to the Antarctic tree line, but are related to exposure. The Kerguelen Archipelago is in the southern Indian Ocean at 49°20 S, 70°20 E. The main island Kerguelen, originally called Desolation Island, is 6,675 km2 and it is surrounded by another 300 smaller outcrops, forming an archipelago of 7,215 km². The climate is cold, very windy... Map of St. ... South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, also claimed by Argentina. ... A map showing the areas where temperate rainforest can be found Temperate rain forest in the Mount Hood Wilderness, Oregon, United States. ...

Trees growing along the north shore of the Beagle Channel, 55°S.
Trees growing along the north shore of the Beagle Channel, 55°S.

Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1024x768, 302 KB)I took this picture. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1024x768, 302 KB)I took this picture. ... Sea lions on La Isla de Los Lobos in the Beagle Channel Glacier on the north shore of the Beagle Channel Beagle Channel is a strait separating islands of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, in extreme southern South America. ...

See also

  • Ecotone: a transition between two adjacent ecological communities
  • Edge effect: the effect of contrasting environments on an ecosystem
  • Massenerhebung effect
  • Tundra: an area where tree growth is inhibited by low temperatures and short growing seasons

For other uses, see Ecotone (disambiguation). ... An edge effect is the effect of the juxtaposition of contrasting environments on an ecosystem. ... The Massenerhebung effect describes variation in the tree-line based on mountain size and location. ... For other uses, see Tundra (disambiguation). ...

References

  • Arno, S. F. & Hammerly, R. P. 1984. Timberline. Mountain and Arctic Forest Frontiers. The Mountaineers, Seattle. ISBN 0-89886-085-7
  • Ødum, S. 1979. Actual and potential tree line in the North Atlantic region, especially in Greenland and the Faroes. Holarctic Ecology 2: 222-227.
  • Ødum, S. 1991. Choice of species and origins for arboriculture in Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Dansk Dendrologisk Årsskrift 9: 3-78.
  • Beringer, J., Tapper, N. J., McHugh, I., Lynch, A. H., Serreze, M. C., & Slater, A. 2001. Impact of Arctic treeline on synoptic climate. Geophysical Research Letters 28 (22): 4247-4250.

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