Journal of Resources and Ecology ›› 2020, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (4): 342-348.DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2020.04.002

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The Distribution Patterns of Timberline and Its Response to Climate Change in the Himalayas

SHI Peili1,*(), WU Ning2, Gopal S. RAWAT3   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
    3. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun 248 001, Uttaranchal, India
  • Received:2019-01-21 Accepted:2019-12-01 Online:2020-07-14 Published:2020-09-30
  • Contact: SHI Peili
  • Supported by:
    The National Natural Science Foundation of China and ICIMOD Joint Research Project(41661144045)


Himalayan region represents the highest and most diverse treeline over the world. As one of the most conspicuous boundaries between montane forests and alpine vegetation, the alpine timberline attracted the interest of researchers for many decades. However, timberline in the Himalayas is understudied compared with European counterparts due to remoteness. Here we review the distribution pattern of timberline and its climatic condition, the carbon and nutrient supply mechanism for treeline formation, and treeline shift and treeline tree recruitment under climate change scenarios. Growth limitation, rather than carbon source limitation is the physiological cause of timberline under the low temperature condition. Nutrient limitation and water stress are not the direct cause of timberline formation. However, more clear local limitation factors are need to integrate in order to enable us to predict the potential impacts and changes caused by human activity and related global change in this sensitive region.

Key words: timberline, treeline ecotone, floristic and species composition, carbon and nutrient relation, climate change, timberline shift