Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mountain summits in the Alps becoming increasingly similar

03.12.2007
Alpine summit vegetation will become increasingly homogenized as a result of climate change, say researchers from the University of Bayreuth and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research writing in the international Journal of Vegetation Science.

The biologists assessed data on the composition and species numbers of plants on the summits of seven mountains measuring over 3000 metres in the Bernina range in Switzerland over a period of almost one hundred years. They noticed that as a result of climate change, an upward shift of flora is taking place.

This is increasing the number of species on the mountain summits studied, but also leading to an increasing homogenization of the species composition of Alpine summit vegetation. This means that species diversity within individual areas (‘alpha diversity’) is increasing, but that species diversity across ecosystems (‘beta diversity’) is declining.

Seen generally, biodiversity can decline for two main reasons: through the disappearance of species, or when specialised species are replaced by generalists. The resulting homogenization can lead to a reduction in regional biodiversity. Until now, the question of homogenization has, however, primarily been discussed in connection with the impacts of invasive species, and less in the context of climate change. The evaluation of the data from the Bernina range now puts this debate in a new light.

For their study, the two researchers analysed data from their colleague Gian-Reto Walther, who investigated the top ten metres of these summits in detail in 2003 and made notes of all the plants. They compared these records with surveys from the years 1907 and 1985. On average, the number of plant species rose from 10 to 28 species per summit. The increasing temperatures has evidently brought about a proper ‘summit meeting’. More and more species are now forced to share the summits.

At the last count in 2003, however, no species were found to have disappeared since 1907. By contrast, the differences between the summits declined significantly over the same period. Today the summits of the Minor range are not only more similar to each other, they are also more similar to the neighbouring Languard range than before, despite the fact that they are separated from each other within the Bernina Alps by the Val da Fain.

“This is a clear sign of the early stages of homogenization,” says Gerald Jurasinski, a biogeographer from the University of Bayreuth. “We suspect that the accessibility and popularity of these summits among climbers is playing a role here – after all, seeds can also be carried on people’s clothes and shoes. But unfortunately there is not yet any data for this,” remarks Jürgen Kreyling of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ. The two researchers hope their work will draw attention to the fact that biodiversity means more than species richness.

The composition of the species spectrum, beta diversity and functional diversity also play an important role in functioning ecosystems. The University of Bayreuth is carrying out intensive research into this topic in collaboration with the UFZ, and this is also reflected in its courses, e.g. the Masters degree in Global Change Ecology, which forms part of the Bavarian Elite programme.

Tilo Arnhold

Doris Boehme | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=15607

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Geomagnetic jerks finally reproduced and explained
23.04.2019 | CNRS

nachricht "Flight recorder" of rocks within the Earth’s crust
16.04.2019 | Universität Bern

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum gas turns supersolid

Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.

Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Marine Skin dives deeper for better monitoring

23.04.2019 | Information Technology

Geomagnetic jerks finally reproduced and explained

23.04.2019 | Earth Sciences

Overlooked molecular machine in cell nucleus may hold key to treating aggressive leukemia

23.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>