Continent-wide response of mountain vegetation to climate change

Gottfried, Michael and Pauli, Harald and Futschik, Andreas and Akhalkatsi, Maia and Barančok, Peter and Alonso, José Luis Benito and Coldea, Gheorghe (2012) Continent-wide response of mountain vegetation to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 2 (2). pp. 111-115. ISSN 1758-6798

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ABSTRACT Climate impact studies have indicated ecological fingerprints of recent global warming across a wide range of habitats1, 2. Although these studies have shown responses from various local case studies, a coherent large-scale account on temperature-driven changes of biotic communities has been lacking3, 4. Here we use 867 vegetation samples above the treeline from 60 summit sites in all major European mountain systems to show that ongoing climate change gradually transforms mountain plant communities. We provide evidence that the more cold-adapted species decline and the more warm-adapted species increase, a process described here as thermophilization. At the scale of individual mountains this general trend may not be apparent, but at the larger, continental scale we observed a significantly higher abundance of thermophilic species in 2008, compared with 2001. Thermophilization of mountain plant communities mirrors the degree of recent warming and is more pronounced in areas where the temperature increase has been higher. In view of the projected climate change5, 6 the observed transformation suggests a progressive decline of cold mountain habitats and their biota.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Q Science > Conservation Biology
Q Science > Ecology
Q Science > QK Botany
Divisions: Institutes > Institute of Ecology
Depositing User: Prof.Dr. Maia Akhalkatsi
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2014 09:57
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2015 12:17

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