Alpine ecosystems belong to the most endangered in the word, given their high sensibility to human induced impacts. Recent studies have detected a response of the boundary between subalpine forests and alpine zones (i.e. the treeline) to climate change, but there is an ongoing controversy about whether or not and how treelines may advance or retreat under current climate trends. This question is however of great interest for the biodiversity of alpine ecotones, and changes in the treeline would have important implications for the global carbon cycle. Thus, there is a need to understand the mechanisms shaping treelines and how different factors operate on them both at local and landscape scales. This project is designed to disentangle treeline dynamics, i.e. its spatiotemporal variation and long-term responses to climatic forcing and biological interactions using advanced modeling techniques and an extensive dataset of individual tree age, growth, position, size and recruitment in Pinus uncinata at the Pyrenean range. Spatially-explicit, individual-based models will be employed to simulate treeline spatiotemporal dynamics including both abiotic (temperature and precipitation, especially snow) and biotic factors (e.g. seed viability and dispersal, tree growth), as well as potential synergisms. First, modeling efforts will focus on the local scale and then, the entire Pyrenees will be modeled by upscaling, retaining only the relevant detail necessary to describe broad scale dynamics. Finally, the landscape scale model will be used to project treeline dynamics forced under different climate change scenarios generated through regional climate models. In all stages, a pattern-oriented modeling strategy will be used to examine the sensitivity of model predictions and assumptions, and to optimize model performance. The project will make a significant advance in finding reliable conservation policies for alpine areas, especially those related to climate change mitigation.
Fields of science
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