A common soil temperature threshold for the upper limit of alpine grasslands in European mountains

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State: Public
Version: author
License: CC BY 4.0
Serval ID
serval:BIB_DBF4C8066B00
Type
Article: article from journal or magazin.
Collection
Publications
Institution
Title
A common soil temperature threshold for the upper limit of alpine grasslands in European mountains
Journal
Alpine Botany
Author(s)
Bürli Sarah, Theurillat Jean-Paul, Winkler Manuela, Lamprecht Andrea, Pauli Harald, Rixen Christian, Steinbauer Klaus, Wipf Sonja, Abdaladze Otar, Andrews Christopher, Barančok Peter, Benito-Alonso José Luis, Fernández Calzado Maria Rosa, Carranza Maria Laura, Dick Jan, Erschbamer Brigitta, Ghosn Dany, Gigauri Khatuna, Kazakis George, Mallaun Martin, Michelsen Ottar, Moiseev Dmitry, Moiseev Pavel, Molau Ulf, Molero Mesa Joaquín, Morra di Cella Umberto, Nadeem Imran, Nagy Laszlo, Nicklas Lena, Palaj Andrej, Pedersen Bård, Petey Martina, Puşcaş Mihai, Rossi Graziano, Stanisci Angela, Tomaselli Marcello, Unterluggauer Peter, Ursu Tudor-Mihai, Villar Luis, Vittoz Pascal
ISSN
1664-2201
1664-221X
Publication state
In Press
Peer-reviewed
Oui
Volume
131
Number
1
Pages
41-52
Language
english
Abstract
While climatic research about treeline has a long history, the climatic conditions corresponding to the upper limit of closed alpine grasslands remain poorly understood. Here, we propose a climatic definition for this limit, the ‘grassline’, in analogy to the treeline, which is based on the growing season length and the soil temperature. Eighty-seven mountain summits across ten European mountain ranges, covering three biomes (boreal, temperate, Mediterranean), were inventoried as part of the GLORIA project. Vascular plant cover was estimated visually in 326 plots of 1 x 1 m. Soil temperatures were measured in-situ for 2–7 years, from which the length of the growing season and mean temperature were derived. The climatic conditions corresponding to 40 % plant cover were defined as the thresholds for alpine grassland. Closed vegetation was present in locations with a mean growing season soil temperature warmer than 4.9 °C, or a minimal growing season length of 85 days, with the growing season defined as encompassing days with daily mean ≥ 1 °C. Hence, the upper limit of closed grasslands was associated with a mean soil temperature close to that previously observed at the treeline, and in accordance with physiological thresholds to growth in vascular plants. In contrast to trees, whose canopy temperature is coupled with air temperature, small-stature alpine plants benefit from the soil warmed by solar radiation and consequently, they can grow at higher elevations. Since substrate stability is necessary for grasslands to occur at their climatic limit, the grassline rarely appears as a distinct linear feature.
Keywords
Alpine life zone, GLORIA, Growing season, Plant–climate interactions, Soil temperature, Vascular plants
Open Access
Yes
Funding(s)
University of Lausanne
Create date
24/03/2021 17:29
Last modification date
30/04/2021 6:37
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