Climate warming by ca. 0.8°C between the late-19th and late-20th century, although with some fluctuations, has forced multispecies elevational tree-limit advance by >100 m for the principal tree species in the Swedish part of the Scandinavian mountain range. Predominantly, these processes imply growth in height of old established individuals and less frequently upslope migration of new individuals. After a slight retardation during some cooler decades after 1940, a new active phase of tree-limit advance has occurred with a series of exceptionally mild winters and some warm summers during the 1990s. The magnitude of total 20th century tree-limit rise varies with topoclimate and is mainly confined to wind-sheltered and snow-rich segments of the landscape. Thickening of birch tree stands in the “advance belt” has profoundly altered the general character of the subalpine/low alpine landscape and provides a positive feedback loop for further progressive change and resilience to short-term cooling episodes. All upslope tree-limit shifts and associated landscape transformations during the 20th century have occurred without appreciable time lags, which constitutes knowledge fundamental to the generation of realistic models concerning vegetation responses to potential future warming. The new and elevated pine tree-limit may be the highest during the past 4000 14C years. Thus, it is tentatively inferred that the 20th century climate is unusually warm in a late-Holocene perspective.
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Vol. 30 • No. 2