• alpine treeline;
  • biogeomorphology;
  • Glacier National Park;
  • mountain environments;
  • seedling establishment.

This study examines the role of surface geomorphic features in tree establishment at the alpine treeline in Glacier National Park, Montana, through the presentation of a multiscale, conceptual model of biogeomorphic relationships at alpine treeline. Empirical observations gathered through a multiscale field methodology over three summers serve as a base for the model. The model highlights the importance of surface geomorphic features, specifically boulders and terrace risers, in creating favorable local site conditions, largely by protecting seedlings from wind. The sheltering effect of surface features enables initial seedling establishment, and in some cases survival, above current treeline locations, thereby initiating a positive feedback effect that encourages subsequent tree establishment. Geomorphic features are therefore important in linking scales of pattern and process at the alpine treeline ecotone.