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A global data set of realized treelines sampled from Google Earth aerial images


Kienle, David R.; Irl, Severin D. H.; Beierkuhnlein, Carl (2023), A global data set of realized treelines sampled from Google Earth aerial images, Dryad, Dataset,


We sampled Google Earth aerial images to get a representative and globally distributed dataset of treeline locations. Google Earth images are available to everyone, but may not be automatically downloaded and processed according to Google's license terms. Since we only wanted to detect tree individuals, we evaluated the aerial images manually by hand.
Doing so, we scaled Google Earth’s GUI interface to a buffer size of approximately 6000 m from a perspective of 100 m (+/- 20 m) above Earth’s surface. Within this buffer zone, we took coordinates and elevation of the highest realized treeline locations. In some remote areas of Russia and Canada, individual trees were not identifiable due to insufficient image resolution. If this was the case, no treeline was sampled, unless we detected another visible treeline within the 6,000 m buffer and took this next highest treeline. We did not apply an automated image processing approach. We calculated mass elevation effect as the distance to the nearest mountain chain limits. Continentality was assessed by the distance to the nearest coastline. Isolation was calculated by the nearest distance of a mountain chain to another mountain chain within a comparable elevational band. 


The file global-treeline-data.csv contains the whole data set. Please find further information about the data set in the Please download both files and load the .csv file into your stats software, e.g. R.

Usage notes

The global-treeline-data.csv file can be opened with several software options, e.g. R, LibreOffice or any simple editor.