Researchers at the University of Granada Department of Botanic have participated in an international study that has confirmed that global warming is causing plants to migrate to higher altitudes. The study recently published in Science analyzed species diversity shifts in 66 summits of 17 European ranges between 2001 and 2008.
In the Iberian Peninsula, two target regions were selected in the Pyrenees (Ordesa) and Sierra Nevada (Granada). Researchers found that the species under study had migrated an average of 2.7m upwards. "This finding confirms the hypothesis that a rise in temperatures drives Alpine flora to migrate upwards. As a result, rival species are threatened by competitors, which are migrating to higher altitudes. These changes pose a threat to high-mountain ecosystems in the long and medium term" the authors state.
Boreal-Temperate and Mediterranean Summits
The study also reveals an average increase of 8% in the number of species growing in summits of European mountains. However, such increase is not general, as of the 66 peaks in boreal and temperate areas, the majority revealed an increase in species diversity, while 8 out of the 14 summits in the Mediterranean area revealed a decline in the number of species represented.
Furthermore, the study revealed that species diversity has changed more significantly at low elevation sites at the upper limit of the forest or an equivalent altitude in the Mediterranean region than in other regions.
In Mediterranean mountains (Sierra Nevada, Corsica, Central Apennines and Crete), the rise in temperatures is causing a decline in annual average rainfall, which results in longer summer droughts. Consequently, temperature rise and droughts pose a threat to unique endemic species.
The mountains that present the most significant shifts in species diversity are Mediterranean mountains located in Southern Europe, where climate is different to that of the rest o
|Contact: Joaqun Molero Mesa. Universiy of Granada|
University of Granada