Fine-scale geomorphic/pedogenic processes at alpine treeline may facilitate the initial stages of conifer invasion of alpine tundra. Turf-banked terraces and turf exfoliation associated with solifluction may provide both the topographic protection and the seedbed necessary for conifer establishment above treeline. The morphometry, stoniness and surface penetrability of turf-banked terraces were recorded. Whereas differences among sites exist due to topographic constraints, differences in soil penetrability depend on turf exfoliation. Exfoliated turf risers are significantly more penetrable than non-exfoliated solifluction risers and adjacent treads. These penetrable microsites provide favorable conditions for seed germination. The process of turf exfoliation may play a role in conifer advance into tundra during climatic change.
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