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Vertical distribution of plant communities according to elevation (垂直分布)

Mount Usu / Sarobetsu post-mined peatland
From left: Crater basin in 1986 and 2006. Cottongrass / Daylily

Viola Vertical distribution of vegetation (= altitudinal zonation): vegetation occurs at distinct altitudes depending on changes in environmental conditions

altitude, temperature, humidity, soil composition, solar radiation, wind

Elevational zones
Nival zone (恒雪帯)
Alpine (高山帯)
--- timber limit (森林限界) ---
Subalpine (亜高山帯)
Montane (山地帯/低山帯)

Submontane zone (亜低山帯)

Lowland (山麓帯)

Hilly zone (丘陵帯)
Flat zone (平地帯)

Vertical distribution
Fig. 1. Classical Humboldt profile of the latitudinal position of altitude belts in mountains across the globe and compression of thermal zones of mountaions, altitude or latitude. Grey is montane, black is alpine, white is the nival belt (Körner 2003)


Table. Altitudinal vegetation zonation on North Cascades
Elevation (m): Association
___> 1900: Abies-Pinus/Vaccinium deliciosum
1600-1900: Abies lasiocarpa-Larix/Phyllodoce empetriformis-Vaccinium deliciosum
1300-1600: Abies lasiocarpa/Phyllodoce empetriformis
_900-1300: Abies lasiocarpa/Pachistima myrsinites
__800-900: Abies grandis/Pachistima myrsinites
__600-800: Pseudotsuga menziesii/Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
____< 600: Pinus ponderosa-Pseudotsuga menziesii/Agropyron spectabilis


Zonal: altitudinal distribution and microtopography
Azonal: heavy grazing, fire, soil conditions → non-climax, but stable vegetation

e.g., sand dune, salt marsh

Jayawijaya Mountains, Indonesia

formaly the Orenge Range
4760 m elevation
Snow Zone (Zona Salju, ≥ 4600 m): This zone is covered with permanent snow (Zona ini ditutupi oleh salju abadi)
Alpine Zone (Zona Alpin, 4100-4500 m): This zone is a rocky desert with moss, moss crust and some phanerogams. (Zona ini merupakan gurun batu dengan lumut, lumut kerak dan beberapa fanerogam, terutama ruput dan teki)
Subalpine Zone (Zona Subalpin, 2500-4000 m): At an altitude of 2500-3300 m a.s.l. is dominated by dwarf forests with tall, sparse trees, often mossy or coniferous. While at an altitude of 3400-3600 m a.s.l. is the boundary of forests. At an altitude of 3700-4000 m a.s.l. is dominated by dwarf bushes, patches or conifers. At an altitude of 4000 m a.s.l. is the highest elevation boundary of a single tree. (Pada ketinggian 2500-3300 mdpl didominasi oleh hutan rendah rapat dengan pohon-pohon tinggi menyendiri, sering berlumut atau terdapat konifera. Sedangkan pada ketinggian 3400-3600 mdpl merupakan daerah batas ditemukannya hutan. Pada ketinggian 4000 mdpl merupakan batas elevasi terakhir ditemukannya pohon.)
Forest zone (Zona Hutan 1000-1500 m): This zone is a forest area covered with tall trees and relatively poorly moss. (Zona ini merupakan daerah hutan tertutup berbatang pohon tinggi dan relatif miskin lumut)
Mountain zone (Zona Pegunungan 1000-1500 m): The zone is inhabited by a high-trunked tree trunk above a 2000 m elevation, with a smaller diameter and more moss. (Zona ini dihuni oleh tertutup berbatang pohon tinggi diatas elevasi 2000 m, dengan diameter yang bertambah kecil dan lumut bertambah banyak.)
Lowland (Zona Pamah, 0-1000 m): In this zone, we find out a few types of ecosystems such as mangroves, forests, pamah forests, swamp forests, and forest hills (Pada zona ini dijumpai tipe ekosistem seperti mangrove, hutan, hutan pamah, hutan rawa, dan hutan perbukitan)

Alpine zone (高山帯)

Elevational zones above forest line or tree line
Alpine plants (高山植物)
Plants of which major habitats are alpine. Global warming and ozone depletion have strongly struck this zone. In particular, skislpes may be damaged and closed. The pohot shown in right side is one of the alpine plants, Viola kitamiana.

Timberline and alpine vegetation in WA

This vegetation may be divided into two broad types: subalpine meadow complexes occur due to heavy snow pack and topographic features, often mixed with tree vegetation. Above this zone is a truly alpine vegetation in which the growing season is everywhere too short for tree growth. All such vegetation requires high elevation. How high depends upon the vegetation is lower than what would be expected on the basis of current climate. In the Olympics, the heavy snow pack acts to limit tree growth; on Mount St. Helens, the youth of the cone (and occasional set backs) precludes a climatic tree line. All the Washington volcanoes, the Olympics, and most of the Cascades have subalpine or alpine meadow vegetation.
Elevation: First subalpine meadows begin as low as 1340 m on Mount St. Helens and 1400 m on Mt. Baker and true alpine conditions usually begin above 2100 m or higher.
Climate: Short growing season with extensive snow accumulates in western Washington.

A. Subalpine Meadows

  1. Phyllodoce-Cassiope-Vaccinium (Heath scrub) association: Dominance is by one or more of these ericaceous shrubs; typical associations that occur broadly in western Washington include:
    1. Phyllodoce empetriformis-Vaccinium deliciosum association. This association also usually contains Cassiope mertensiana, Leutekea pectinata, and Antennaria lanata. Usually on moist, well drained sites with limited snow accumulation and relatively long growing season. Soils are usually Cryorthods (podzols).
  2. Lush Herb: These meadows are floristically rich and have dominance shared by many species in different locales.
    1. Valeriana sitchensis-Veratrum viride association has a rich group of associates including Lupinus latifolius, Castilleja parvi-flora, and Heracleum lanatum. Occurs on steep, well-watered slopes, especially where avalanches are common.
    2. Carex spectabilis association that occurs primarily in late snow melt areas, with Lupinus latifolius and Polygonum bistortoides always present.
    3. Rubus parviflorus-Epilobium angustifolium association occurs mainly in the North Cascades on steep exposed slopes with a long snow-free season. It is a low elevation type controlled more by soil conditions that by climatic conditions.
  3. Carex nigricans association: These associations always occur in wet sites with a short growing season due to late snow melt. They are usually surrounded by associations requiring longer growing periods (e.g., heather associations).
  1. Rawmark associations: These are associations that pioneer rocky or extremely disturbed conditions. They vary greatly from place to place. The more important include these:
    1. Saxifraga tolmiei association, common on exposed sands and gravels.
    2. Luetkea pectinata associations that often colonize talus slopes. Luetkea may be found in many conditions, including stable associations.
    3. Antennaria lanata association found on flat, shallow soil conditions drier than conditions dominated by Carex nigricans.
    4. Phlox diffusa dominates subalpine early snow melt communities in many places, growing with species such as Allium crenulatum and Lomatium martindalei
  2. Festuca associations: Grassy, dry meadows dominated by Festuca viridula are common on Mt. Rainier; in the Olympics, Festuca idahoensis appears to be the functional equivalent. The fescues have broad moisture tolerances and will occur with a variety of herbs depending on location and moisture status.

B. Alpine communities

The true alpine zone is limited in Washington due to heavy snow packs. Much of it less on recent volcanoes where the substrates are young. These vegetation types are generally found above 2300 m. Snow accumulation and wind, combined with soil factors do much to control distributional patterns. Soil instability is a major feature of alpine vegetation, leading to solifluction terraces and stone stripes, among others. Major studies have been conducted in the North Cascades, Olympics, Mt. Rainier, and the Enchantment Lakes. Typical assemblages include the following from Mt. Rainier, but there are many variants.
  1. Empetrum nigrum-Lupinus lepidus association, a rich, mesic community with relatively high cover.
  2. Arctostaphylos uva-uris-Solidago spathulata association is a rich, warm site association with strong dominance by scrubby species, including Juniperus communis and Potentilla fruticosa.
  3. Arenaria obtusiloba-Lupinus lepidus association is a very rich, xerophytic association of typically cushion plants. Phlox diffusa and Silene acaulis are common
  4. Phyllodoce gladuliflora-Aster alpigenus association is low in richness, high in cover. The heather dominates cool, moist habitats in which this association occurs. Soils are stable, acid.
  5. Pedicularis-Carex spectabilis association from a mesic turf association.
  6. Erigeron aureus-Lupinus lepidus association is a dry, open herb community on well-drained soils.
In other areas, homologous associations and additional associations have been described. Associations vary clinally from north to south and from east to west.

Lab-study. High elevation vegetation

Species are listed below by major habitat types. Study the species demonstrated to learn their identifying traits and to learn some of the common associations to be found in Washington. For each dominant species, try to associate several usual subordinates and to determine the kind of habitat you would find these species.

Subalpine meadow vegetation

Occurs at elevations that might support trees, but do not due to topographic or historical factors. May occur below 1500 m (unusual circumstances), typically around 1750 m.
Distribution: throughout high-elevation habitats of western Washington, with five major types of vegetation, defined by growth-from of the dominant species: Heath Scrub (HS), Lush Herb (LH), Dwarf Sedge (DS), Rawmark (RM) and Grassland (GL).

Phyllodoce empetriformis*xAcid soil
Cassiope mertensiana*xAcid soil
Vaccinium deliciosum*xBurns
Luetkea pectinata*xxDominant in
Deschampsia atropurpureaxx
Polygonum bistortoides*x
Valeriana sitchensis*xxx
Carex spectabilis*xxxLate snowmelt
Lupinus latifolius*x
Carex nigricans*xLate snowmelt
Potentilla flabellifoliaxx
Annemone occidentalis*xx
Juncus drummondiixx
Saxifraga tolmiei*x
Festuca viridula*xMount Rainier
Phlox diffusa*x
Aster ledophyllus*x
Agrostis diegoensis*xSouth Cascades
Empetrum nigrum*X
Lupinus lepidus*XxXxxx
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi*X
Solidago spathulata*Xxx
Juniperus communisx
Penstemon procerus*xxxxx
Arenaria obtusiloba*xxXx
Phlox diffusa*xxxX
Phyllodoce glanduliflora*X
Luetkea pectinatax
Aster alpigenusXx
Pedicularis contorta*XX
Carex nigricansx
Carex spectabilisX
Erigeron aureusxxxxxx
Arenaria capillaris*x
Oxyria digynax
Salix barcleyiix
Salix cascadensisx

Typical associations: (Heath Scrub) Phyllodoce empetriformis-Vaccinium deliciosum; Cassiope meertensiana-Phde; Vade; Phem/Lupinus latifolius; (Lush Herb) Valeriana sitchensis-Veratrum viride; Vasi-Lula; Lula-Polygonum bistortoides; Carex spectabilis; (Dwarf Sedge) Carex nigricans; (Rawmark) Luetkea pectinata; Saxifraga tolmiei; (Grassland) Festuca viridula-Lula; Fevi-Aster ledophyllus; Festuca idahoensis-Lupinus lepidus (Olympics).

Alpine Meadows

Occur at high elevations, beyond the climatic limit of tree growth, at least 2000 m or more.
Distribution: poorly developed in Washington, due in part to heavy snow pack in and rarity of high elevation habitats. The alpine zone is steep, rugged and often covered in ice or glaciers. Most of true alpine is on volcanoes, hence soils are poorly developed and disturbance is chronic. Seven typical associations have been recognized on Mount Rainier: Lush Fellfield (LF), Dry Fellfield (DF), Pioneer Cushion Plant (PC), Wet Alpine (WA), Turf Sedge (TS), Forb Stripes (FS), and Pioneer Turf (PT).
Alpine Association in the Mount Stuart Area: Arenaria obtusiloba-Phlox diffusa; Lule-Carex proposita-Penstemon davidsonii; Phlox diffusa-Eriogonum pyrolifolium (widespread); Carex spectabilis-Lule; Casp-Juncus parryi; Carex nigricans-Lupinus latifolius (and others).

[ mixed forest | wind cave ]

Subalpine zone (亜高山帯)

the zone of plants below tree line on a mountain

Japan: needle-leaved forest (Honshu), or Betula maximowicziana forest (Hokkaido)

Pseudo-alpine zone (偽高山帯)

Dorso-ventral structure of vegetation between Japan Sea and Pacific Ocean sides
The zone is distributed only in Tohoku District, Japan

Montane zone (山地帯)

= mountain zone (fuzzy term)

Japan: deciduous broad-leaved forest (summergreen forest)

Submontane zone: zone in the lower slopes of a mountain
Premontane zone: zone just below the montane zone

Lowland zone (山麓帯)

Lowland: a low, generally flat region

Japan: evergreen broad-leaved forest

Highland: elevated or mountainous land