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Continent-wide response of mountain vegetation to climate change

Gottfried, Michael; Pauli, Harald; Futschik, Andreas; Akhalkatsi, Maia; Barančok, Peter; Benito Alonso, José Luis; Coldea, Gheorghe; Dick, Jan; Erschbamer, Brigitta; Fernández Calzado, Marıa Rosa; Kazakis, George; Krajči, Ján; Larsson, Per; Mallaun, Martin; Michelsen, Ottar; Moiseev, Dmitry; Moiseev, Pavel; Molau, Ulf; Merzouki, Abderrahmane; Nagy, Laszlo; Nakhutsrishvili, George; Pedersen, Bård; Pelino, Giovanni; Puscas, Mihai; Rossi, Graziano; Stanisci, Angela; Theurillat, Jean-Paul; Tomaselli, Marcello; Villar, Luis; Vittoz, Pascal; Vogiatzakis, Ioannis; Grabherr, Georg. 2012 Continent-wide response of mountain vegetation to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 2 (2). 111-115. 10.1038/nclimate1329

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Abstract/Summary

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: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1038/nclimate1329
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 3 - Managing Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in a Changing Environment
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 1 - Observations, Patterns, and Predictions for Biodiversity
CEH Sections: Watt
ISSN: 1758-678X
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Related URLs:
Date made live: 09 Nov 2012 16:22
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/20245

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