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Title (Primary) Changes in plant species diversity revealed by long-term monitoring on mountain summits in the Dolomites (northern Italy)
Author Erschbamer, B.; Unterluggauer, P.; Winkler, E.; Mallaun, M.
Journal Preslia
Year 2011
Department OESA
Volume 83
Page From 378
Page To 401
Language englisch
Keywords alpine ecosystems; Dolomites; climate change; altitudinal range; GLORIA; migration; species diversity; revisitation

Vegetation on mountains is expected to react in a highly sensitive way to climate change and species losses are predicted in the near future. By means of monitoring studies changes in species diversity can be continuously recorded. In this paper the results of a 7-year study in the Southern Alps are reported. As part of the worldwide network GLORIA (The Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments) four summits, at altitudes ranging from the treeline to the alpine-subnival ecotone (2199, 2463, 2757 and 2893 m a.s.l.) in the Dolomites (northern Italy) were studied. Sites on the four summits were used to determine the effects of climate warming and observe changes in the numbers of species of vascular plants, frequency and composition. It is hypothesized that ‘thermophilization’ is likely to occur over a period of 7 years (i.e. species from lower altitudes are expected to migrate to the summits due to climate warming). It is also hypothesized that nival, alpine-subnival and endemic species might decrease due to competitive displacement by species from lower altitudes. The summit areas were comprehensively sampled (from the highest point down to the 10 m contour line) in 2001, 2006 and 2008. In addition, 4 × 1 m2 permanent plots located 5 m below the highest summit point on the north, south, east and west sides of each summit were sampled. The results of revisiting the summits indicate that the number of species increased on all four summits, with the greatest gains (15% and 18%) recorded on the two highest summits and moderate gains (4% and 9%) on the two lower summits. Species’ frequencies within the 1 m2 plots also increased during the 2001–2008 period. A thermophilization trend was demonstrated in which species with distribution centres in the montane or tree line zones were found for the first time on three of the summits. On the lowest summit, the vigorous growth of trees and establishment of new saplings indicate an upward migration of the forest boundary. Species that disappeared from the four summits belonged to species with different altitudinal ranges; however, nival and subnivalalpine species remained. One endemic species, Potentilla nitida, disappeared from the highest summit. Further changes and clearer trends are expected in the next decade.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Erschbamer, B., Unterluggauer, P., Winkler, E., Mallaun, M. (2011):
Changes in plant species diversity revealed by long-term monitoring on mountain summits in the Dolomites (northern Italy)
Preslia 83 , 378 - 401