The number of debris-covered glaciers featuring supraglacial trees is increasing worldwide as a response of high mountain environments to climate warming. Generally, their distribution on the glacier surface is not homogeneous, thus suggesting that some glacier parameters influence germination and growth of trees. In this study, we focused our attention on the widest Italian debris-covered glacier, the Miage Glacier (Mont Blanc massif). We analyzed the ablation area in the range from 1730 to 2400 m a.s.l. where continuous debris coverage is present and trees are found. Using data obtained by remote sensing investigations and field surveys, we defined a record of glacier parameters to be analyzed with respect to the presence and abundance of trees. We found that supraglacial trees are present at the Miage Glacier (1) whenever exceeding a debris thickness threshold (⩾19 cm), (2) with a gentle slope (⩽10°), (3) with a low glacier surface velocity (⩽7.0 m/yr), and (4) where the vertical changes due to glacier dynamics are positive (i.e. prevalent increase ranging between +7 and +28 m over 28 years due to both slow debris accumulation and preservation of ice flow inputs). The statistical analysis supports our findings. The analysis of the same parameters might be conducted on other debris-covered glaciers featuring supraglacial trees, in order to evaluate whether such conditions are local ones or whether they are general factors driving germination and growth of trees. By identifying the features supporting the presence and growth of trees in these environments, and their thresholds, a contribution is given for a better understanding of the importance of debris-covered glaciers and, in general, of debris-covered ice, as a refuge for trees during glacial and warm intervals of the Holocene.

Assessing glacier features supporting supraglacial trees : a case study of the Miage debris-covered Glacier (Italian Alps) / L.C. Vezzola, G.A. Diolaiuti, C. D'Agata, C. Smiraglia, M. Pelfini. - In: THE HOLOCENE. - ISSN 0959-6836. - 26:7(2016 Jul), pp. 1138-1148. [10.1177/0959683616632883]

Assessing glacier features supporting supraglacial trees : a case study of the Miage debris-covered Glacier (Italian Alps)

L.C. Vezzola
Primo
;
G.A. Diolaiuti
Secondo
;
C. D'Agata;C. Smiraglia
Penultimo
;
M. Pelfini
Ultimo
2016-07

Abstract

The number of debris-covered glaciers featuring supraglacial trees is increasing worldwide as a response of high mountain environments to climate warming. Generally, their distribution on the glacier surface is not homogeneous, thus suggesting that some glacier parameters influence germination and growth of trees. In this study, we focused our attention on the widest Italian debris-covered glacier, the Miage Glacier (Mont Blanc massif). We analyzed the ablation area in the range from 1730 to 2400 m a.s.l. where continuous debris coverage is present and trees are found. Using data obtained by remote sensing investigations and field surveys, we defined a record of glacier parameters to be analyzed with respect to the presence and abundance of trees. We found that supraglacial trees are present at the Miage Glacier (1) whenever exceeding a debris thickness threshold (⩾19 cm), (2) with a gentle slope (⩽10°), (3) with a low glacier surface velocity (⩽7.0 m/yr), and (4) where the vertical changes due to glacier dynamics are positive (i.e. prevalent increase ranging between +7 and +28 m over 28 years due to both slow debris accumulation and preservation of ice flow inputs). The statistical analysis supports our findings. The analysis of the same parameters might be conducted on other debris-covered glaciers featuring supraglacial trees, in order to evaluate whether such conditions are local ones or whether they are general factors driving germination and growth of trees. By identifying the features supporting the presence and growth of trees in these environments, and their thresholds, a contribution is given for a better understanding of the importance of debris-covered glaciers and, in general, of debris-covered ice, as a refuge for trees during glacial and warm intervals of the Holocene.
debris-covered glacier; Italian Alps; Miage Glacier; remote sensing; supraglacial debris; supraglacial trees
Settore GEO/04 - Geografia Fisica e Geomorfologia
11-mar-2016
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2434/370403
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