Remote Sensing, Vol. 15, Pages 2679: Establishing the Position and Drivers of the Eastern Andean Treeline with Automated Transect Sampling

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Remote Sensing, Vol. 15, Pages 2679: Establishing the Position and Drivers of the Eastern Andean Treeline with Automated Transect Sampling

Remote Sensing doi: 10.3390/rs15102679

Authors:
Przemyslaw Zelazowski
Stefan Jozefowicz
Kenneth J. Feeley
Yadvinder Malhi

The eastern Andean treeline (EATL) is the world’s longest altitudinal ecotone and plays an important role in biodiversity conservation in the context of land use/cover and climate change. The purpose of this study was to assess to what extent the position of the tropical EATL (9°N–18°S) is in near-equilibrium with the climate, which determines its potential to adapt to climate change. On a continental scale, we have used land cover maps (MODIS MCD12) and elevation data (SRTM) to make the first-order assessment of the EATL position and continuity. For the assessment on a local scale and to address the three-dimensional nature of environmental change in mountainous environments, a novel method of automated delineation and assessment of altitudinal transects was devised and applied to Landsat-based forest maps (GLAD) and fine-resolution climatology (CHELSA). The emergence of a consistent longitudinal gradient of the treeline elevation over half of the EATL extent, which increases towards the equator by ~30 m and ~60 m per geographic degree from the south and north, respectively, serves as a first-order validation of the approach, while the local transects reveal a more nuanced aspect-dependent pattern. We conclude that the applied dual-scale approach with automated mass transect sampling allows for an improved understanding of treeline dynamics.

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