African Journal of
Agricultural Research

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Agric. Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1991-637X
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJAR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 6691

Full Length Research Paper

A concise scheme of vegetation boundary terms in subtropical high mountains

Ching-An Chiu
  • Ching-An Chiu
  • Experimental Forest, National Chung Hsing University. 250 Kuokwang Rd., Taichung City 40227, Taiwan (R.O.C.),
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Mei-Fen Lee
  • Mei-Fen Lee
  • Department of Landscape Architecture, National Chin-Yi University of Technology. No.57, Sec. 2, Zhongshan Rd., Taiping Dist., Taichung City 41170, Taiwan (R.O.C.).
  • Google Scholar
Hsy-Yu Tzeng
  • Hsy-Yu Tzeng
  • Department of Forestry, National Chung Hsing University. 250 Kuokwang Rd., Taichung City 40227, Taiwan (R.O.C.).
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Min-Chun Liao
  • Min-Chun Liao
  • Yangmingshan National Park. No. 1-20, Zhuzihu Road, Beitou District, Yangmingshan, Taipei City 11292, Taiwan (R.O.C.).
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 23 February 2012
  •  Accepted: 20 September 2012
  •  Published: 16 May 2014


There are numerous terms used to describe the vegetation boundary in high mountains. It is essential to define and agree on a unified usage for these terms. The literature review method had been used in this paper to clarify the vegetation boundary terms and their scopes. The result revealed that these terms were much diversified and ambiguous, and more or less related and infringed with each other in ecological concept and visible landscape, even mutually used as synonyms in some cases. We proposed a concise scheme for clarifying these terms and illustrating their relationship, including timberline [instead of previously used economic (rational, generative) forest-line, economic timberline, limit of continuous forest], forestline [instead of physiognomic (empirical, vegetative, biologic) forest-line, actual timberline, physiognomic forest-limit], treeline (instead of tree limit and treeline), krummholzline (instead of tree-species line, tree species limit, krummholz limit), and historic treeline. The 5 boundary terms could facilitate the comprehension of spatial sequence of vegetation transformation in high mountains. However, all boundaries do not necessarily occur in all mountains of the world concurrently. In some papers, the term timberline or treeline once referred to the ecotone from continuous forest to tree less landscape, but the term forest–tundra ecotone should obtain more commendations when vegetation transition is much more gradual particularly around the subarctic. To avoid the confusion from using these boundary terms, we suggest that authors studying boundary related issues should interpret their scope of terminologies and provide the basic description about environment and vegetation outlines in the complex high mountains.


Key words: Timberline, forestline, treeline, krummholzline, high mountains.