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Continent-wide response of mountain vegetation to climate change

* INCLUDES 'WHY IT MATTERS' FEATURE * This paper, in the journal Nature Climate Change, is based on analyses of data from mountain-top locations across Europe, including ECN Cairngorms.

© 2012 Nature Publishing Group

Gottfried, M., Pauli, H., Futschik, A., et al. (2012). Continent-wide response of mountain vegetation to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 2, 111-115. doi:10.1038/nclimate1329



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The authors of this paper demonstrate that climate change is gradually transforming mountain plant communities. Using 867 vegetation samples taken around the summits of 60 sites across Europe’s major mountain systems, they provide evidence that cold-adapted plant species are declining while those with a preference for warmer conditions (i.e. thermophilic species) are increasing, a process described here as thermophilization. At a whole continental scale, the authors observed a significantly higher abundance of thermophilic species in 2008 compared with 2001. In view of current climate change projections, the observations are consistent with a progressive decline of cold mountain habitats and the wildlife that characterises them.

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