Repeat photography is a powerful tool for detection of landscape change over decadal timescales. Here a novel method is presented that applies spatial analysis software to digital photo-pairs, allowing vegetation change to be categorized and quantified. This method is applied to 12 sites within the alpine treeline ecotone of Glacier National Park, Montana, and is used to examine vegetation changes over timescales ranging from 71 to 93 years. Tree cover at the treeline ecotone increased in 10 out of the 12 photo-pairs (mean increase of 60%). Establishment occurred at all sites, infilling occurred at 11 sites. To demonstrate the utility of this method, patterns of tree establishment at treeline are described and the possible causes of changes within the treeline ecotone are discussed. Local factors undoubtedly affect the magnitude and type of the observed changes, however the ubiquity of the increase in tree cover implies a common forcing mechanism. Mean minimum summer temperatures have increased by 1.5??C over the past century and, coupled with variations in the amount of early spring snow water equivalent, likely account for much of the increase in tree cover at the treeline ecotone. Lastly, shortcomings of this method are presented along with possible solutions and areas for future research. ?? 2007 Regents of the University of Colorado.
Additional publication details
Development of a spatial analysis method using ground-based repeat photography to detect changes in the alpine treeline ecotone, Glacier National Park, Montana, U.S.A.