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Evaluating thermal treeline indicators based on air and soil temperature using an air-to-soil temperature transfer model
In recent research, both soil (root-zone) and air temperature have been used as predictors for the treeline position worldwide. In this study, we intended to (a) test the proposed temperature limitation at the treeline, and (b) investigate effects of season length for both heat sum and mean temperature variables in the Swiss Alps. As soil temperature data are available for a limited number of sites only, we developed an air-to-soil transfer model (ASTRAMO). The air-to-soil transfer model predicts daily mean root-zone temperatures (10cm below the surface) at the treeline exclusively from daily mean air temperatures. The model using calibrated air and root-zone temperature measurements at nine treeline sites in the Swiss Alps incorporates time lags to account for the damping effect between air and soil temperatures as well as the temporal autocorrelations typical for such chronological data sets. Based on the measured and modeled root-zone temperatures we analyzed. the suitability of the thermal treeline indicators seasonal mean and degree-days to describe the Alpine treeline position. The root-zone indicators were then compared to the respective indicators based on measured air temperatures, with all indicators calculated for two different indicator period lengths. For both temperature types (root-zone and air) and both indicator periods, seasonal mean temperature was the indicator with the lowest variation across all treeline sites. The resulting indicator values were 7.0 degrees C +/- 0.4 SD (short indicator period), respectively 7.1 degrees C +/- 0.5 SD (long indicator period) for root-zone temperature, and 8.0 degrees C +/- 0.6 SD (short indicator period), respectively 8.8 degrees C +/- 0.8 SD (long indicator period) for air temperature. Generally, a higher variation was found for all air based treeline indicators when compared to the root-zone temperature indicators. Despite this, we showed that treeline indicators calculated from both air and root-zone temperatures can be used to describe the Alpine treeline position.
autocorrelation, degree-days, seasonal mean, time series regression model, root-zone temperature
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