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Changes to the timberline and the growth of subalpine trees at higher elevations in response to global climatic change.

Global climatic changes have been in the news for several years and may be producing warmer annual temperatures. Trees are important in many aspects of our lives and are very temperature dependent. The timberline is the elevation at which temperature is the limiting factor for tree growth and development; therefore, our hypothesis was that global climatic temperature increases the growing season. Because of this, we predict that the timberline will increase in elevation due to warmer growing conditions. We found a mountain slope with adequate soil above the present timberline, little or no rockslides or late season snow accumulation, and was protected from any major wind damage, thus making temperature the greatest limiting factor. Our research location was in the Spirit Lake drainage in the Uinta Mountains, Ashley National Forest, in Daggett County, Utah, USA. This area was chosen because it is away from sources of urban, agricultural, or industrial pollution and heating, for these activities affect local environments. Starting at the highest tree, transient lines were ran every 30 meters down the mountain slope and 100 meters across on which the height, girth, and approximate age of the trees encountered were taken. Twenty replications were taken until mature, full-grown trees were encountered. It was found that very young trees, less than 12 years of age, comprised the top 100 meters of mountain slope. Comparing this elevation data to a forest service map revised in 1993, we was concluded that the timberline has increased in elevation 100 meters in the last 10 to 12 years, which is a very significant increase. However, further study must be done in other areas to examine whether this is occurring in multiple localities. Limiting the possibilities of other influences on tree growth remains a concern and must be managed to ensure accurate results and conclusions. This work was supported by the Explorer's Club of New York and by P20-16471 from the NCRR.

Joshua Steffan *, Tyler Burgess, and Lynn Burgess

Department of Natural Sciences, Dickinson State University, Dickinson, ND 58601
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Title Annotation:A. Rodger Denison Student Research Competition: COMMUNICATIONS: UNDERGRADUATE DIVISION
Author:Steffan, Joshua; Burgess, Tyler; Burgess, Lynn
Publication:Proceedings of the North Dakota Academy of Science
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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