Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Ecology









Many plant species may not be able to migrate fast enough to keep pace with accelerating anthropogenic climate change. Observations and tools to reliably project these climate‐vegetation disequilibria are lacking, yet they are critical to ecological theory and resource management. For example, tree species’ ability to keep pace with the amplified warming occurring at high‐elevation forest limits (Mountain Research Initiative EDW Working Group 2015) will depend on how fast expansion at the upper, ‘cool edge’ proceeds relative to contraction at the lower, ‘warm edge’ of subalpine forest (Hampe & Petit 2005). It is assumed that subalpine trees will move to higher elevations with climate change because low summer temperatures have been observed to limit tree growth above tree line (Rossi et al. 2008; Korner 2012). The fate of mountain forests is particularly important given anticipated widespread tree mortality (van Mantgem et al. 2009; McDowell & Allen 2015). Range shifts in high‐elevation forest trees can alter the position of tree line with implications for water supply (Musselman et al. 2012), carbon sequestration (de Wit et al. 2014), alpine biodiversity (Gottfried et al. 2012; Pauli et al. 2012), and regional climate (de Wit et al. 2014). Density of trees and per cent canopy cover are important determinants of winter snow pack and duration of retention into the spring, where high‐elevation biodiversity depends on water provisioning provided by subalpine forests (Millar & Rundel 2016). Understanding dynamic forest change requires models that include dispersal limitation, long maturation times, climate‐sensitive demographic rates (Jackson et al. 2009) and the experimental data to specify and test the models.


© 2017 The Author(s). Journal compilation © 2017 British Ecological Society