Wind holes as phytogeographical vaults

Woo-Seok KONG, Sle-Gee LEE, Kwang-Hee YOON, Hee-Na PARK
Department of Geography, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

The presence of large number of cryophilous or cold-tolerant Arctic-Alpine Plant (A-AP) and Alpine Plant (AP) in at heterogeneous habitats, such as alpine belts, islands, and other specific locations such as peninsulas is of considerable biogeographically interest. Occurrence of A-AP floristic elements at unglaciated lowland wind hole or air hole, where the ground air layer is cooler in summer, but milder in winter than an overlying layer, is of interest with respect to phytogeography. Disjunctive distribution of Vaccinium vitis-idaea or mountain cranberry at lowland wind hole needs scientific explanation in connection with both past and present environments. People also need to know what could happen if the current global warming trend exceeds the physiological adaptation and migration speed of A-AP and AP. V. vitis-idaea, which is common on the circumpolar regions and alpine belts of the Northern Hemisphere, also occurs on the alpine and subalpine belts of the Korean Peninsula, including Mt. Sorak (128º27'55"E, 38º07'08"N) and Hongcheon (128º16'15"E, 37º48'28"N) in R.O.K. V. vitis-idaea at the elevation of c. 350 m a.s.l. of Hongcheon wind hole (200 m2), is regarded as one of its global southernmost distributional limits. As such it might have provided a habitat as a glacial relict of the Pleistocene period, and at present shows a disjunctive distribution (56 km distance away) since the Holocene period. The presence of V. vitis-idaea at the Hongcheon refugium might imply the existence of previous floristic linkage among these populations as a glacial relict. Present vertical range differences of V. vitis-idaea between Mt. Sorak and Hongcheon might indicates that the temperatures during glacial epoch was colder than today, down to -6 to -7ºC. A major restriction factor for the present distribution of cold-loving V. vitis-idaea seems related to the summer maximum temperature, and its presence at this fragile wind hole site could be endanger if current global warming trends continues, and anthropogenic activities become serious aggravated. This study is supported by the 2010 project by Korea National Arboretum.

2012 Organizing Committee