Hansen, Katherine J. Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana.
Last reviewed:October 2019
- Environmental controls
- Tree forms
- Importance of trees
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Plant growth forms characteristic of upper reaches of forests on mountain slopes. In such an environment, trees undergo gradual changes that, though subtle at first, may become dramatic beyond the dense forest as the zone of transition leads into the nonforested zone of the alpine tundra. In varying degrees, depending on the particular mountain setting, the forest is transformed from a closed-canopy forest to one of deformed and dwarfed trees interspersed with alpine tundra species (Fig. 1). This zone of transition is referred to as the forest-alpine tundra ecotone. The trees within the ecotone are stunted, often shrublike, and do not have the symmetrical shape of most trees within the forest interior. The classic image is one of twisted, stunted, and struggling individual trees clinging to a windswept ridge (Fig. 2). The ecotone in which these trees exist is visually one of the most striking vegetational transition areas known.
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