Abstract. Questions: What is the relationship between alpine vegetation patterns and climate? And how do alpine vegetation patterns respond to climate changes?
Location: Tibetan Plateau, southwestern China. The total area is 2500000 km2 with an average altitude over 4000 m.
Methods: The geographic distribution of vegetation types on the Tibetan Plateau was simulated based on climatology using a small set of plant functional types (PFTs) embedded in the biogeochemistry-biography model BIOME4. The paleoclimate for the early Holocene was used to explore the possibility of simulating past vegetation patterns. Changes in vegetation patterns were simulated assuming continuous exponential increase in atmospheric CO concentration, based on a transient ocean-atmosphere simulation including sulfate aerosol effects during the 21st century.
Results: Forest, shrub steppe, alpine steppe and alpine meadow extended while no desert vegetation developed under the warmer and humid climate of the early Holocene. In the future climate scenario, the simulated tree line is farther north in most sectors than at present. There are also major northward shifts of alpine meadows and a reduction in shrub-dominated montane steppe. The boundary between montane desert and alpine desert will be farther to the south than today. The area of alpine desert would decrease, that of montane desert would increase.
Conclusions: The outline of changes in vegetation distribution was captured with the simulation. Increased CO2 concentration would potentially lead to big changes in alpine ecosystems.