Alpine plants fleeing the heat: they migrate higher and higher
Plants fleeing the heat. Climate change is profoundly changing the panorama of Alpine flora. This is explained by a study published in PNAS - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences signed by Lorenzo Marini And Constance Geppert of the Department of Agronomy, animals, foods and the environment of the University of Padua with Alessio Bertolli And Philip Prosser botanists of the Rovereto Civic Museum Foundation. Research shows that the alpine flora is undergoing a profound change and it is no coincidence that, in the last 30 years, the diffusion of native plants in the European Alps has not only decreased considerably but has moved towards higher altitudes.
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Plants and climate change
In fact, the researchers compared the diffusion changes of 1,479 plant species between native and alien from 1990 to 2019 and found that alien species have expanded their range to high altitudes also maintaining the previous levels at low altitudes. It is therefore the native species that show the signs of climate change. Even, according to the researchers, those considered endangered species would be disappearing at lower altitudes.
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The impact of human activities
This is because the analysis of the ecological traits of plants has revealed that the alien species they are relatively more competitive and better adapted to lower altitude soils affected by human impact, such as urban areas. Based on these findings according to the authors, conservation efforts in the European Alps they should be extended to low-elevation areas, where human pressure could exacerbate competition between native and non-native plant species. But it's not just the rise in temperatures that causes Alpine plants to migrate to colder climates, it's also human activities and their impact on the environment.
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"In several mountain ranges - write the authors - the great majority of protected areas are usually established at high altitudes due to conflicts with economic development interests further downstream. Although in the future high altitude plants may always be most threatened by global warming, most of them do not appear to be at immediate risk and, therefore, we should prioritize the lowlands to implement the most urgent conservation measures there."
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Meanwhile, alien species seem very quick to grow and exploit resources by subtracting them from native species. And they can't help but escape the heat.