Mountain Ranges Can Act As Conservation Safe Havens in a Warming World

swiss alps photo

photo: Jim Whitehead/Creative Commons

While there have been some pretty dire reports about the extinction of plants and animals due to global warming, there has also been some interesting and encouraging research about how species may be able survive in certain places. This is one of those. Research coming out of the University of Basel, Switzerland shows that conditions in mountain ranges offer important climatic stepping stones for cool-loving plants (and animals?). The researchers looked an various mountain slopes and discovered (perhaps not unsurprisingly for anyone who's spent time in the mountains) that the exposure of the slope and the ruggedness of the terrain can produce a wide variety of conditions in a small area. More so than often occurs in forests and flatter terrain. Part of that is that areas can experience dramatic warming during the day, with some of that warmth hanging on for cloudy days and at night.

Christian K├Ârner, report co-author:

We found that the occurrences of plant species across these mosaics of warmth match with their known temperature preferences. This means that rugged alpine terrain offers refuge habitats--or at least stepping stones to these--at short distance, for both small plants and animals that prefer cool life conditions...[because of their habitat diversity] mountains are therefore particularly important areas for the conservation of biodiversity in a given region under climatic change and thus deserve particular protection. (Science Daily)

Here's the original: Topographically controlled thermal-habitat differentiation buffers alpine plant diversity against climate warming
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