The alpine treeline ecotone is defined as a forest-grassland or forest-tundra transition boundary either between subalpine forest and treeless grassland, or between subalpine forest and treeless tundra. The alpine treeline ecotone serves irreplaceable ecological functions and provides various ecosystem services. There are three lines associated with the alpine treeline ecotone, the tree species line (i.e., the highest elevational limit of individual tree establishment and growth), the treeline (i.e., the transition line between tree islands and isolated individual trees) and the timber line (i.e., the upper boundary of the closed subalpine forest). The alpine treeline ecotone is the belt region between the tree species line and the timber line of the closed forest. The treeline is very sensitive to climate change and is often used as an indicator for the response of vegetation to global warming. However, there is currently no comprehensive review in the field of alpine treeline advance under global warming. Therefore, this review summarizes the literature and discusses the theoretical bases and challenges in the study of alpine treeline dynamics from the following four aspects: (1) Ecological functions and issues of treeline dynamics; (2) Methodology for monitoring treeline dynamics; (3) Treeline shifts in different climate zones; (4) Driving factors for treeline upward shifting.
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Vol. 13 • No. 3