The present paper focuses on the distribution of Pinus mugo in the Carpathians, in an area on the border between Slovakia and Poland. We analyze the response of P. mugo distribution to abiotic habitat conditions in the western Tatra Mountains and discuss possible implications for research. The source data for this study were aerial photographs from 3 periods (1965, 1986, and 2002). Mountain areas covered by dwarf pine were identified and analyzed by ArcGIS 9.2, and pine fields were classified with the help of the gray scale mode. A strip of dwarf pine above the upper limit of the forest represents a well-identifiable boundary on the aerial photographs: 25 well-recognized localities were selected to examine the changes in the tree line in the western Tatras. The distribution of dwarf pine systematically increased in the western Tatra Mountains from 1965 to 2002 on all monitored sites. The percentage of total surface area covered in P. mugo increased from 41.8% in 1965 to 51.8% in 1986 and to 58.2% in 2002. The study also analyzes the dispersal of dwarf pine over 40 years in relation with slope and elevation. The results of this study explain ongoing and future vegetation changes and can be used as an important contribution to monitoring of climate change in the mid-European mountain areas.
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