The Andes provide an extensive latitudinal and topographical framework for studying the factors that control the spatial patterns of forests (timberlines) and their species components expressed through the presence of tree growth forms (tree lines). Despite consistent overall similarities in landscape patterns, many processes must be unique, given the dramatic differences in species richness and biophysical constraints along the Andes. In all cases evaluated to date, morphological plasticity is a common trait of plant species that dominate at tree lines. In fact, many changes observed can be related to species-specific traits. Physiological limitations on tree growth form only explain species limits, while disturbances and cyclical climate fluctuations interact to affect many landscape patterns. Over long periods of time, tree lines provide unique habitats and perhaps opportunities for speciation. Understanding the spatial organization of tree-line dynamics is one viable research approach for evaluating the likely past fluxes and possible future changes
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