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Mountain birch seedlings above the sub-Arctic treeline: How do abiotic and biotic factors affect the growth?
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
2015 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesisAlternative title
Groddplantor av fjällbjörk ovan trädgränsen : Hur påverkar biotiska och abiotiska faktorer tillväxten? (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Temperature is commonly suggested to be the most important regulating factor for the position of the treeline. But also other abiotic and biotic processes may influence. To understand treeline shifts, it is necessary to improve the knowledge about the treeline forming species and their establishment, growth and survival. What are the drivers behind the shifts? The abundance of other vegetation is previously reported to facilitate growth of seedlings above treeline and also warmer temperatures are commonly observed to improve growth.


This study observed growth of mountain birch seedlings during one growing season. The relative importance of environmental factors in relation to the amount of growth and abundance was investigated. The study was conducted in the area of Abisko, Northern Sweden, using 4 sites, where transects were established just above the treeline. The sites differed in the amount of mean precipitation and aspect of the slopes. The vegetation composition around the seedlings and at the average treeline was observed, soil temperatures measured and the aspect of the slope estimated


Seedling growth was observed at all sites, with the highest amount in the sites with most precipitation, Pålnoviken and Katterjåkk. The observed soil mean and maximum temperatures were consistently highest in the southern facing slopes of Jiebrenjåkk and Pålnoviken. The vegetation was mostly dominated by dwarf shrubs, herbaceous plant cover, mosses and bare ground, and did not differ between the seedlings and the average treeline. The best model for growth was found to be the combination of the factors site, herbaceous plant cover, litter and soil mean temperature. Herbaceous plant cover was observed to improve the amount of growth in the drier sites of Pålnoviken and Jiebrenjåkk.


The finding of mountain birch seedlings growing in all vegetation types along the treeline, indicates that they have no preference of vegetation type for establishment. However, the negative influence of bare ground on growth supports the theory that abundance of vegetation facilitates growth of seedlings. The highest amount of growth was found in the sites with most precipitation, suggesting this to be an important factor for growth. In contrast to the expectations, warmer soil temperatures and the south facing slopes did not affect growth positively. This could be explained by the extremely high temperatures of the summer that may have induced drought. Finally, the improved growth by herbaceous plant cover in the drier sites may be because of their preference of moisture and nutrient rich soils, that could also support the growth of mountain birch seedlings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. , 17 p.
Keyword [en]
treeline, mountain birch, Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-101567OAI: diva2:800464
Available from: 2015-04-07 Created: 2015-04-05 Last updated: 2015-04-07Bibliographically approved

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Beckman, Sara
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