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Global distribution and bioclimatic characterization of alpine biomes

AuthorsTestolin, R.; Attorre, F; Jiménez Alfaro, Borja
KeywordsAlpine biomes
bioclimatic characterization
global treeline
Google Earth
primary productivity
Issue Date28-Feb-2020
CitationEcography 43(6): 779- 788 (2020)
AbstractAlthough there is a general consensus on the distribution and ecological features of terrestrial biomes, the allocation of alpine ecosystems in the global biogeographic system is still unclear. Here, we delineate a global map of alpine areas above the treeline by modelling regional treeline elevation at 30 m resolution, using global forest cover data and quantile regression. We then used global datasets to 1) assess the climatic characteristics of alpine ecosystems using principal component analysis, 2) define bioclimatic groups by an optimized cluster analysis and 3) evaluate patterns of primary productivity based on the normalized difference vegetation index. As defined here, alpine biomes cover 3.56 Mkm or 2.64% of land outside Antarctica. Despite temperature differences across latitude, these ecosystems converge below a sharp threshold of 5.9°C and towards the colder end of the global climatic space. Below that temperature threshold, alpine ecosystems are influenced by a latitudinal gradient of mean annual temperature and they are climatically differentiated by seasonality and continentality. This gradient delineates a climatic envelope of global alpine biomes around temperate, boreal and tundra biomes as defined in Whittaker's scheme. Although alpine biomes are similarly dominated by poorly vegetated areas, world ecoregions show strong differences in the productivity of their alpine belt irrespectively of major climate zones. These results suggest that vegetation structure and function of alpine ecosystems are driven by regional and local contingencies in addition to macroclimatic factors.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ecog.05012
Identifiersdoi: 10.1111/ecog.05012
issn: 1600-0587
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