Climate Change Pushing Alpine Plants Off the Mountain

SNappa2006/CC BY 2.0

It seems obvious: As the average temperatures of alpine climates increase, cold-loving plant and animal species are forced to move up to higher elevations to find the conditions they are best suited for. New research, however, has found a surprise in this simple process—that it's happening much faster than previously thought.

By analyzing plant samples from 60 summits in 13 European nations, researchers found that the phenomenon is continental in scale. Michael Gottfried, a researcher with the Austria-based Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments, explained that the team "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

"Many cold-loving species are literally running out of mountain," he continued, "in some of the lower mountains in Europe, we could see alpine meadows disappearing and dwarf shrubs taking over within the next few decades."

Researchers compared data collected between 2001 and 2008, indicating the change is happening much more quickly than previously thought.

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects | Global Warming Science