Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate change is altering mountain vegetation at large scale

Date:
January 8, 2012
Source:
University of Vienna
Summary:
Climate change is having a more profound effect on alpine vegetation than at first anticipated, according to a new study. The first ever pan-European study of changing mountain vegetation has found that some alpine meadows could disappear within the next few decades.

All 32 authors involved in the study used the same sampling procedures enabling pan-continental comparisons to be made for the first time, here at the Austrian Hochschwab mountains.
Credit: Harald Pauli

Climate change is having a more profound effect on alpine vegetation than at first anticipated, according to a study carried out by an international group of researchers and published in Nature Climate Change. The first ever pan-European study of changing mountain vegetation has found that some alpine meadows could disappear within the next few decades.

Led by researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Vienna, biologists from 13 different countries in Europe analysed 867 vegetation samples from 60 different summits sited in all major European mountain systems, first in 2001 and then again just seven years later in 2008. They found strong indications that, at a continental scale, cold-loving plants traditionally found in alpine regions are being pushed out of many habitats by warm-loving plants.

"We expected to find a greater number of warm-loving plants at higher altitudes, but we did not expect to find such a significant change in such a short space of time," said Michael Gottfried from the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA) programme which coordinated the study. "Many cold-loving species are literally running out of mountain. In some of the lower mountains in Europe, we could see alpine meadows disappearing and dwarf shrubs taking over within the next few decades," he warns.

The study, which is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the world, confirmed that there is a direct link between growing summer temperature and the shift in alpine plant composition. "While regional studies have previously made this link, this is the first time it has been shown on a continental scale," said Gottfried. This phenomenon, which the GLORIA researchers have called thermophilization, has now been measured and quantified for the first time and is expressed by the researchers as a thermophilization indicator (D). All 32 of the study's authors used exactly the same sampling procedures and returned to the same sampling sites, thus enabling a pan-continental comparison to be made for the first time. "We hope that our thermophilization indicator could be used by other research groups around the world and enable a global comparison," said Harald Pauli, GLORIA's network coordinator.

The research also showed that the effect is independent of altitude (it is happening at the tree line as well as on high mountain peaks) and latitude (the effect is seen in northern countries such as Scotland as well as southern mountain ranges such those on Crete).

"Our work shows that climate change affects even the outer edges of the biosphere," said Georg Grabherr, chair of the GLORIA programme. "The thermophilisation of alpine life zones can never be controlled directly. Adaptation strategies are not an option and we must concentrate on mitigating climate change in order to preserve our biogenetic treasure."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Vienna. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael Gottfried, Harald Pauli, Andreas Futschik, Maia Akhalkatsi, Peter Barančok, José Luis Benito Alonso, Gheorghe Coldea, Jan Dick, Brigitta Erschbamer, Marı´a Rosa Fernández Calzado, George Kazakis, Ján Krajči, Per Larsson, Martin Mallaun, Ottar Michelsen, Dmitry Moiseev, Pavel Moiseev, Ulf Molau, Abderrahmane Merzouki, Laszlo Nagy, George Nakhutsrishvili, Bĺrd Pedersen, Giovanni Pelino, Mihai Puscas, Graziano Rossi, Angela Stanisci, Jean-Paul Theurillat, Marcello Tomaselli, Luis Villar, Pascal Vittoz, Ioannis Vogiatzakis, Georg Grabherr. Continent-wide response of mountain vegetation to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1329

Cite This Page:

University of Vienna. "Climate change is altering mountain vegetation at large scale." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120108143550.htm>.
University of Vienna. (2012, January 8). Climate change is altering mountain vegetation at large scale. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120108143550.htm
University of Vienna. "Climate change is altering mountain vegetation at large scale." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120108143550.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

More Coverage


European Mountain Vegetation Shows Effects of Warmer Climate

Jan. 8, 2012 — Researchers from 13 countries report clear and statistically significant evidence of a continent-wide warming effect on mountain plant communities in ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins