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Geographical review of Japan, Series B.
Vol. 72 (1999) No. 2 P 122-134



The distribution of arboreal arctic-alpine plants in NE Asia and Korea is discussed. The presence of large numbers of species of the arctic-alpine flora in the Korean Peninsula, and especially the global southernmost distributional limits for certain species, may primarily be attributed to palaeo-environmental factors, since it cannot be wholly explained by reference to present environmental conditions.
The disjunctive distribution of many arctic-alpine plants in NE Asia and the Korean Peninsula, as well as the Japanese Islands, suggests a former continuous distribution of these both regionally and on a broader scale. It also implies their range extension down-slopes and southwards during the Pleistocene glacial phases, and the subsequent breakdown of a former continuous range into fragments as the climate ameliorated during the post-glacial warming phase.
The arctic-alpine flora, now mainly on the peaks of the Korean mountains, have been able to persist in alpine belts thanks to their harsh climatic conditions, sterile soil, rugged topography and cryoturbation. The horizontal and vertical distributional limits of some species seem to coincide with the maximum monthly summer isotherms, and the continued survival of alpine plants in Korea is in danger, if global warming associated with the greenhouse effect takes place.

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