Gardening in the zone of death: an experimental assessment of the absolute elevation limit of vascular plants View Full Text


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Article Info

DATE

2016-04-13

AUTHORS

Miroslav Dvorský, Zuzana Chlumská, Jan Altman, Kateřina Čapková, Klára Řeháková, Martin Macek, Martin Kopecký, Pierre Liancourt, Jiří Doležal

ABSTRACT

Vascular plants in the western Tibetan Plateau reach 6000 m-the highest elevation on Earth. Due to the significant warming of the region, plant ranges are expected to shift upwards. However, factors governing maximum elevational limits of plant are unclear. To experimentally assess these factors, we transplanted 12 species from 5750 m to 5900 m (upper edge of vegetation) and 6100 m (beyond range) and monitored their survival for six years. In the first three years (2009–2012), there were plants surviving beyond the regional upper limit of vegetation. This supports the hypothesis of dispersal and/or recruitment limitation. Substantial warming, recorded in-situ during this period, very likely facilitated the survival. The survival was ecologically a non-random process, species better adapted to repeated soil freezing and thawing survived significantly better. No species have survived at 6100 m since 2013, probably due to the extreme snowfall in 2013. In conclusion, apart from the minimum heat requirements, our results show that episodic climatic events are decisive determinants of upper elevational limits of vascular plants. More... »

PAGES

24440

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    http://scigraph.springernature.com/pub.10.1038/srep24440

    DOI

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep24440

    DIMENSIONS

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    PUBMED

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27071305


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    30 schema:description Vascular plants in the western Tibetan Plateau reach 6000 m-the highest elevation on Earth. Due to the significant warming of the region, plant ranges are expected to shift upwards. However, factors governing maximum elevational limits of plant are unclear. To experimentally assess these factors, we transplanted 12 species from 5750 m to 5900 m (upper edge of vegetation) and 6100 m (beyond range) and monitored their survival for six years. In the first three years (2009–2012), there were plants surviving beyond the regional upper limit of vegetation. This supports the hypothesis of dispersal and/or recruitment limitation. Substantial warming, recorded in-situ during this period, very likely facilitated the survival. The survival was ecologically a non-random process, species better adapted to repeated soil freezing and thawing survived significantly better. No species have survived at 6100 m since 2013, probably due to the extreme snowfall in 2013. In conclusion, apart from the minimum heat requirements, our results show that episodic climatic events are decisive determinants of upper elevational limits of vascular plants.
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