Current issue: 53(3)
Under compilation: 53(4)
The boreal timber- and tree-line forests grow in harsh environmental conditions in their outermost distribution limit. Here even small environmental changes may cause dramatic changes in the distribution of tree species. We examined changes of the forest lines of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) H. Karst.) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) in Finnish Lapland five times during 1983–2009. We monitored the number of stems and the volume of the growing stock in thirteen different locations in forest-line areas. The linear temporal trends and the variations of these response variables were used as indicators of a possible change during the study period. Spruce showed a significant increase both in the volume of the growing stock (up to 40% increase) and in the total stem number (up to 100% increase). A significant increase in the volume of the growing stock was observed in the pine data as well (up to 70% increase), whereas the stem number stagnated or even decreased. The results suggest that spruce needs favourable conditions to have an abundant regeneration, but after the establishment the seedlings seem to be more resistant against biotic and abiotic disturbances than pine seedlings. The increasing stand volume might result in a climate-related northward and upward extension of forests in the future. However, our results show that responses in the boreal forest line are species and location specific and a more favourable climate does not necessarily lead to an advance of the coniferous forest line.