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Recent forest limit changes in south-east Norway: Effects of climate change or regrowth after abandoned utilisation?

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The forest limits of south-east Norway have expanded to higher altitudes. Two main processes are believed to cause these changes: regrowth after abandonment of human utilisation and recent climate changes. The article aims at separating the effects of these two processes on the upper forest limits and recent forest expansion. Four datasets representing 161.5 km2 have been used: climate data, downscaled climate change scenario data, forest height growth, and four vegetation maps. The maps represent the years 1959 and 2001, potential natural vegetation (PNV), and a climate change scenario (CCS). The recent upper potential climatic and edaphic forest limit (UPCEFL) was used to define the potential for forest regrowth after the abandonment of human utilisation. Forest height growth and climate data were then used to analyse any supplementary effect of recent climate change. The projected future forest limits were based on the IPCC IS92a scenario for 2020-2049. The results show that raised forest limits and forest range expansion often attributed to recent climate change is rather the product of regrowth, a process that was climatically retarded from 1959 to 1995. For the period 1995-2006, the data indicate a preliminary effect of climate change escalating the regrowth and probably pushing the future forest limits to higher altitudes.
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Keywords: climate change scenario; cultural landscape; forest limit; potential natural vegetation; vegetation mapping

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-12-01

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