Warm-adapted species pushing out cold mountain biota
Written on March 11, 2012 by Beyond Seasons End No Comments »
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As temperatures increase, shrubs will overtake alpine meadows. Photo: USFS
Describing the process as thermophilization, European scientists have documented the transformation of mountain plant communities as the more cold-adapted species decline and the more warm-adapted species increase. Analyzing vegetation from 60 summits throughout Europe’s major mountain ranges at a seven-year interval, biologists determined that similar changes in mountain plant communities were occurring independent of altitude and latitude. Changes were most rapid, however, in areas where temperatures have increased the fastest. The study, published in Molecular Ecology and available at no charge, indicates that, across the continent, cold-loving plants indigenous to alpine regions are being pushed out by more heat-tolerant plants. Considering the projections of future climate change, the authors suggest their observations point to a progressive decline of cold mountain habitats and their biota.