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Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Climate Change Altering European Mountain Vegetation
What this study does do is
confirm rather nicely that the climate is warmer in Europe
as is understood from other work.The
effect of been warmer is that plant life has been forced to adjust over the
past decade as a lagging indicator of the previous rise in temperature.
I personally think that European
temperatures have achieved conditions similar to both the Medieval Warming and
the Roman Optimum which lasted centuries in both cases and ended with an abrupt
chilling a few centuries in.I base that
mostly on the recent recovery of wine growing in Britain.Greenland
has not thawed enough yet so it is too soon to pasture cows there perhaps, but
the process has certainly begun.
I am actually quite optimistic
that we have a solid five centuries of warm conditions in the Northern
Hemisphere ahead of us.I also think
that if we are able to reforest the Sahara
totally during this period, the resultant warming will moderate the abrupt
chill coming at the end.
In the meantime, the ArcticSea
is continuing to lose net sea ice mass and we should begin seeing a little
drama in the Arctic even this year if folks
pick up on it.
Climate change is altering mountain vegetation at large scale
by Staff Writers
Vienna, Austria (SPX) Jan 10, 2012
"We did not expect to find such a significant change in such a short space
of time," said Michael Gottfried, lead author of the study. Credit: Verena
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
Continent-wide response of mountain vegetation to climate change. In:
Nature Climate Change, 8. Janner 2012 (Online ahead of print) DOI: