PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (8): 1397-1405.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2021.08.012

• Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Mountain elevation effect of the Alps and its implication for forest line

YAO Yonghui1(), SUO Nandongzhu2, ZHANG Yichi1   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Resource and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Qinghai National Park Scientific Research Monitoring and Evaluation Center, Xining 810000, China
  • Received:2020-12-24 Revised:2021-04-13 Online:2021-08-28 Published:2021-10-28
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41571099);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41871350)


The Alps, a typical mountain in the Eurasia Continent with mountain elevation effect (MEE), plays an important role in determining the geo-ecological pattern of Europe. The cause of the MEE is that the uplifted plateau or mountain absorbs more solar radiation. Most of the previous studies used the difference of temperature at the same altitude or base height inside and outside the mountain to quantify the MEE. However, the above methods may have some errors. This study chose the Alps as the study area and analyzed the spatial distributions of the solar radiation, temperature, and forest line in the Alps based on the collected meteorological observation data, forest line data, and digital elevation data, as well as the solar radiation data calculated by the hemispheric horizon algorithm. For the purpose of exploring the implication of MEE for the forest line, this study used solar radiation as the representation of MEE to build a forest line distribution model. The results show that: 1) The Alps has great MEE, and solar radiations of the inner mountain are much higher than that on the edge of the mountain. It is also the main reason that the temperature and the height of forest line in the inner mountain are far higher than that in the mountain edge areas. The solar radiation in the warmest month, the coldest month, and the whole year is 10-20, 20-40 and 200-400 kWh/m2 higher than that on the edge of the mountain, respectively. 2) Solar radiation can better quantify the MEE, and forest line distribution model established with solar radiations as the substitute factor of MEE has higher simulation accuracy. The accuracy of the forest line distribution model in this study (R2 = 0.736) is higher than that of the model based on temperature and precipitation (R2 = 0.522), and the contribution rate of solar radiation to forest line distribution is the highest (34.75% in January and 27.82% in July), which exceeds the contribution rates of temperature and precipitation (26.24% and 11.17%, respectively).

Key words: mountain elevation effect (MEE), forest line, temperature, solar radiation, the Alps