Patterns of winter desiccation in krummholz forms of abies lasiocarpa at treeline sites in glacier national park, montana, usa Academic Article uri icon


  • Winter desiccation-induced foliage loss at high-elevation locations is an important determinant of positive carbon balance for trees and thus influences the location of the alpine treeline ecotone. In this study, data are presented that describe the amount of winter desiccation incurred by krummholz growth forms of subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa (Hook) Nutt.) at treeline locations in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, for the winter of 1998/1999. An average 8.68% of the krummholz canopy was lost due to desiccation. Winter desiccation is not predictable based on any single environmental variable. When outliers are removed, winter desiccation shows a strong correlation with elevation (r=0.97). Patch level winter desiccation amounts are, however, highly predictable from elevation, slope, aspect and topographic context when considered together. In general, injury increases with elevation and on more southwesterly facing hillslopes. High slopes and sheltered locations decrease winter desiccation. Within patches, most winter desiccation is located at the windward edge of the patch. This trend may be modified by the presence of leaders above the mean canopy surface of the krummholz patch, or by local microtopographic features such as dead branches or the proximity of large rocks. The winter of 1998/1999 was a high winter desiccation year compared to the two previous winters. The winter of 1998/1999 had high snowfall, and meltout did not occur until later than the previous two winters. The extended period of snow cover is hypothesized to be one of the causes of the increased winter desiccation for the 1998/1999 winter.

published proceedings

  • Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography

author list (cited authors)

  • Cairns, D. M

citation count

  • 38

complete list of authors

  • Cairns, David M

publication date

  • October 2001