European High Mountain (Alpine) Vegetation and its Suitability for Indicating Climate Change Impacts

Laszlo Nagy
2006 Biology and Environment (Dublin)  
High mountain (alpine) vegetation in Europe occurs above the climatic treeline or substitute vegetation from north of the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean. As bearing the least modified ecosystems, high mountains offer an opportunity to use their plant and animal species for studying climate change impacts. However, the indicator value of the different vegetation types varies. Treelines, often used in reconstructing past climate by palaeo-scientists, are, in most cases, suppressed by past or
more » ... resent land use and, as a result, their changes need careful interpreting. Glacier forefields are the theatre of primary succession and vegetation changes there have an innate temporal dimension that needs to taken into account. Changes in snowbeds can occur over a relatively short time and are readily interpretable, as long as potential confounding impacts by herbivores are excluded. In the long-term, remote alpine summits with long-established vegetation (but less so those in the sub-nival zone, where primary succession is underway) are likely to yield useful and interpretable information beyond the short-to medium-term impacts of the vagaries of mountain weather.
doi:10.3318/bioe.2006.106.3.335 fatcat:6afxilzee5gh3juylfdkwhm64q