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Effects of rapid climatic change on plant biodiversity in boreal and montaneecosystems


The objective of the project is to predict changes in plant biodiversity that could be induced by climatic changes in boreal and mountaineous European areas.

Biodiversity, defined as the number of species present in the landscape, can be diminished by rapid climatic change if species either do not have a sufficient area of potentially suitable new habitat to which to retreat, or if poor dispersal prevents them from reaching their new habitat in time. Enhanced greenhouse warming will, in the next century, diminish the extent of boreo-alpine habitat. A similar reduction occurred during the Holocene thermal maximum. This project will examine the extent of these readjustments in four mountane 20-km squares, situated in Norway, Scotland, western Alps and Appenino Abbruzese, and will assess their consequences for local biodiversity. The vegetation of each square will be mapped from multidate satellite images. Methods developed for global biome modelling will be applied to the study sites; the link between continent-wide bioclimatic drivers and local climatology will be strengthened. Flora and vegetation will be interpreted in terms of a typology of plant functional types developed for global studies. Biodiversity will be related to species-abundance curves within plant functional types for broadly defined biotopes, coupled to an estimate of the abundance of biotopes.

Altitudinal limits of species in the mountains will be related to their geographic limits at the continental scale. Predictions of biodiversity based on reconstructions of past climate at the continental scale will be verified by macrofossil analysis of sediment cores. In particular, we shall seek to quantify the magnitude of the bottleneck at the thermal maximum. Predictions for the future will be based on GCM scenarios of climate change coupled to spatially explicit models of the 20-km study squares using a combined GIS-modelling approach.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


NERC Institute of Terrestrial Ecology
Monks Wood Experimental Station Abbots Ripton
PE17 2LS Huntingdon
United Kingdom

Participants (4)

Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet

7034 Trondheim
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
7005 Trondheim
University of Durham
United Kingdom
South Road
DH1 3LE Durham
Université de Grenoble I (Université Joseph Fourier)

38041 Grenoble