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Alpine Vegetation reference: Körner, Ch. 1999. Alpine Plant Life. Springer Verlag, Berlin Some slides courtesy of Bill Bowman Mountain Research Station,

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Presentation on theme: "Alpine Vegetation reference: Körner, Ch. 1999. Alpine Plant Life. Springer Verlag, Berlin Some slides courtesy of Bill Bowman Mountain Research Station,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Alpine Vegetation reference: Körner, Ch Alpine Plant Life. Springer Verlag, Berlin Some slides courtesy of Bill Bowman Mountain Research Station, INSTAAR

2 MOUNTAINS Have the highest plant species diversity High mountain environments have a high percentage of endemic plants Alpine areas have a much high plant diversity than forested areas

3 Boulder County: 1550 species (50% of flora of Colorado) Weld County: ~600 species Regional scale plant diversity in S. Rockies; the influence of mountains:

4 Nival Alpine treeline Subalpine Montane

5 Mixed Aspen - Lodgepole Pine Forest : 8,500 to 10,000 feet yellow - green color foliage dense trees straight, pole-like Used by humans since prehistoric times light construction, finishing lumber, poles

6 Lodgepole pine needles attached to twigs in bunches paired, twisted long, green

7 Aspen only deciduous tree at this altitude grow in a variety of soil conditions from wet to dry

8 Subalpine Forest: 10, ,000 ft spruce and fir dominate. narrow crowns dark green color cool,dark, humid E.g. Engelmann Spruce Humans have seldom used these forest due to their remoteness

9 Engelmann Spruce short needles attached to twigs rounded, spiky Spruce bark is reddish and outer layer flakes off

10 Rocky Mtn. Douglas Fir short needles attached to twigs; flat needles smooth bark

11 Forest- Tundra Transition: CLIMATE Situated between timberline and treeline (lower) (upper) Windier and colder mean annual soil temps ~ 0 deg. Snow covered

12 Forest-tundra transition: VEGETATION "Krummholz”: crooked wood slow growth (few inches trunk) ”Flag trees” Wind snow

13 Forest-tundra transition: TREE ISLANDS Trees grow into bands form microsites -- reproduction occurs Windward side: wind Lee side: snow

14 World’s highest tree? Quenual, up to 4,800m

15 Nival Alpine treeline Subalpine Montane

16 Elevation of treeline corresponds with: 1) minimum growing season temperature around 6 °C 2) wind zone 3) geomorphic disturbance- avalanches

17 Global distribution of treeline large variation in altitude at mid- latitudes associated with continentality- treelines lower in moist, maritime locations from Körner, 1999

18 Nival Alpine treeline Subalpine Montane

19 Alpine Tundra: 11,200 to 12,000 ft Definition: windswept, treeless area found at highest altitudes in the mountains Niwot Ridge in May

20  cold (<0 deg C)  temperatures may change rapidly  windy (mainly temperate zone)  100 mph at Niwot Ridge!  Precipitation as snow Alpine environmental conditions : CLIMATE

21 Alpine environmental conditions: SOIL low nutrients in soil Rocky Thin soil cover low soil temperature ice present in the ground -- creates periglacial features “polygons”

22 Alpine Tundra distribution

23 Alpine is a globally distributed biome- plants have similar "growth forms:" graminoids (grasses, sedges) forbs (broad leaved plants) prostrate shrubs flowers

24 Major life forms of alpine vegetation

25 Cushion plants – Coropuna, Peruvian altiplano Incas used them as fuel source

26 Puya Raimondi, Pastoruri (Peru) Blooms evey 40 years! Note the leaves

27 Alpine environment summarized:  Cold + windy  snowy!  short growing season  low nutrient availability  High UV radiation How do plants survive in these conditions?

28 Plant adaptation to alpine environment (1) evolutionary adaptation (2) ontogenetic modifications, which are non-reversible during the life of an individual (3) reversible adjustment, often termed “acclimation”

29 4 things plants need: Liquid water nutrients warmth light Limiting factors in alpine and arctic tundra Limiting factor in arctic tundra only

30 Adaptations to cold 1) Cushion plants: grow in small, rounded humps –conserve heat –reduce wind chill

31 Adaptations to cold 2) Develop a blanket of white hairs –protect them from cold at night –White to reflect radiation during the day –e.g. Giant Lobelia, in Kenya

32 Adaptations to cold 3) Keep dead leaves on the stem –prevents ground from freezing –e.g. Groundsel

33 Adaptations to cold 4) Grow short and small –to avoid harsh winds and crushing snow –the air temperature is warmer 10-15cm above the soil.

34 Adaptations to cold 5) Grow in balls that roll around w/frost heave, eg. Kenya moss deal w/expansion and contraction of soil due to freezing and thawing. Stone circles

35 Adaptations to cold 6) Rosette plants cabbage-like leaves surround a central bud winter: central bud is protected by the remaining vegetation.

36 More adaptations to cold  high investment into belowground biomass (high root:shoot ratio)  tolerance to low temperatures  (= intolerance of high temperatures)

37 Cold-tolerant species examples Heaths: hard evergreen leaves that can withstand drying winds and cold temperatures. Common heaths: cranberries, blueberries, and rhododendrons

38 II. Adaptations to dry conditions Many high mountains plants are succulents, with water stored in thick leaves; minimize evaporation E.g. cactus

39 Adaptations to High UV irradiance Cover their leaves with white hairs (reflect the suns rays). Some plants contain a red pigment called anthocyanin which absorbs UV sunlight before it has a chance to damage the leaves.

40 Short growing season Cold nights short daylight hours 180 days/year The Fireweed's seeds are plume- shaped. This allows them to ride on the wind before falling to the ground where they can take root. Adaptation: start to grow as soon as the snows melts store food during the summer months pollination strategies?

41 Summary Cold- grow short, close to ground - grow horizontally -cushion trees wind- grow in clumps (island trees) low nutrients-carnivorous UV-white hairs; antocyanin low growing seasons - grow fast; store nutrients; -pollination strategies dry-wax leaves LIMITATIONSADAPTATION


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