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An Unexpected Shift in Treeline Vegetation

[caption id="attachment_3405" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo 1: A map of the GTREE observation network. Image credit: Carissa Brown.Scientists usually aim to collect as much data as possible to help detect pervasive or repeated patterns often hidden by the high variability of individual observations. Drawing strong inference from individual, often anecdotal occurrences can be misleading because it is difficult to know whether the relationships we see can be generalized to other instances. On the other hand, as human beings we seem to learn well from stories of individual events, and these have the power to transform our understanding in ways that may have a bigger impact than reams of data. To me, this is one of the challenges of working as a field ecologist, where there is often a tension between developing strong inferential power by assembling datasets with many observations and developing a deeper understanding of the dynamics unfolding in any one...
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MRI Synthesis Workshop on Treeline Spatial Patterns

Most mountain inhabitants and visitors will have clear mental images of the alpine treeline, the conspicuous transition from forest to treeless alpine vegetation. These images are likely to be as varied across the globe as the actual variation in form and landscape positions that can be observed between sites and mountain ranges. These spatial patterns can provide insights in what makes each treeline unique and in what makes some of them similar enough to allow generalised predictions about their dynamics. Pictured: Workshop participants visit a treeline site in the Pyrenees (here with a view on Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park). Photo: Dave CairnsIn a recent workshop, held near the Pyrenees between 31 August and 5 September 2017, nine treeline researchers gathered to discuss how this global variation in spatial patterns at treelines from the subarctic to the tropics can be captured, quantified and used to predict dynamics at different treeline...
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