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Montane forest expansion at high elevations drives rapid reduction in non‐forest area, despite no change in mean forest elevation.

Morley, Peter J. and Donoghue, Daniel N. M. and Chen, Jan‐Chang and Jump, Alastair S. (2020) 'Montane forest expansion at high elevations drives rapid reduction in non‐forest area, despite no change in mean forest elevation.', Journal of biogeography., 47 (11). pp. 2405-2416.

Abstract

Aim: At the elevational limit of forest distribution, montane forests show diverse responses to environmental change with upward shifts, increased tree density and lateral expansion reported. To enable informed analysis of the consequences forest advance will have on montane biodiversity, we quantify changes in the area and elevation of the tree line ecotone and identify how patterns of forest advance are modified by topography and over time. Location: Central Mountain Range, Taiwan. Time period: 1963–2016. Major taxa studied: Montane Forests. Methods: Changes in the area and elevation of montane forest at the tree line ecotone were quantified using a stratified random sample of aerial photography captured in 1963, 1980, 2001 and 2016. Weighted estimates of habitat area and elevation for each time step were used to quantify the influence of slope aspect and inclination on tree line ecotone change and identify how the rate of habitat change varies over time. Results: Non‐forest area declined by 29% between 1963 and 2016 driven by a 295.0 ha increase in forest area within the study region. Despite no change in mean forest elevation, the mean elevation of establishing forest has increased at a rate of 2.17 m/yr. Changes in forest area and elevation are spatially variable, driven by the complex montane topography. East and south facing slopes show the largest gains in forest area and 0–20° slopes show an increasing rate of forest establishment up to 2016, while slopes facing west or with incline > 46° show negligible change. Main conclusions: Climate‐linked montane forest expansion in the Central Mountain Range in Taiwan is dominated by infilling rather than increases in forest elevation. Forest expansion has significantly reduced non‐forest habitat area in this endemic species‐rich region. However, considerable terrain‐dependent variation in forest advance occurs, offering the potential that non‐forest species will continue to persist at high elevations with reduced population size.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
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Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
Download PDF
(1565Kb)
Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.13951
Publisher statement:© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Biogeography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:09 July 2020
Date deposited:15 September 2020
Date of first online publication:11 September 2020
Date first made open access:15 September 2020

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