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Data from: Global drivers of tree seedling establishment at alpine treelines in a changing climate

Cite this dataset

Lett, Signe; Dorrepaal, Ellen (2019). Data from: Global drivers of tree seedling establishment at alpine treelines in a changing climate [Dataset]. Dryad.


Alpine and Arctic treeline expansion depends on establishment of tree seedlings beyond the current treeline, which is expected to occur with climate warming. However, treelines often fail to respond to higher temperatures, and it is therefore likely that other environmental factors are important for seedling establishment. We aimed to analyse our current understanding of how temperature and a range of other environmental drivers affect tree seedling establishment at the alpine and Arctic treelines worldwide, and to assess the relative importance of temperature compared with other factors and how they interact. We collected 366 observations from 76 experimental and observational papers for a qualitative analysis of the role of a wide range of environmental factors on tree seed germination, tree seedling growth, survival and natural occurrence. For a subset of these studies, where the experimental design allowed, we conducted formal meta-analyses to reveal if there were global drivers for different seedling life traits. The analyses showed that a wide range of abiotic and biotic factors affected tree seedling establishment besides from temperature, including water, snow, nutrients, light, and surrounding vegetation. The meta-analyses showed that different seedling life stages do not respond similarly to environmental factors. For example, temperature had positive effects on growth, while tree seedling survival and germination showed mixed responses to warming. Further, warming was as often as not the strongest factor controlling tree seedling establishment, when compared to with one of five other environmental factors. Moreover, warming effects often depended on other factors such as moisture or the presence of surrounding vegetation. Our results suggests that population dynamics of trees at the alpine and Arctic treeline are responsive to environmental changes and show that there is a clear need for multi-factorial studies if we want to fully understand and predict the interplay between warming and other environmental factors and their effect on tree seedling establishment across current treelines.

Usage notes


Arctic tundra
Alpine tundra