It is increasingly becoming recognized that the alpine life zone, defi ned as that vegetation occurring above the upper natural treeline on mountains (Körner, 2003), provides an impressive replicated, large-scale natural experiment, and thus an ideal system for studying macroecological patterns, and ecological and evolutionary processes. Although covering a relatively small proportion of the earth’s terrestrial area (ca. 3%) (Körner, 2003), alpine vegetation is amply represented in both hemispheres, where it is found on all continents, and globally extends from subpolar to equatorial latitudes. Alpine vegetation in many parts of the world, unlike much subtending lowland vegetation, is still relatively well conserved (cf. Nogués-Bravo et al., 2008), thus providing greater
assurance that any broad patterns detected in the alpine will refl ect nonanthropogenic processes.