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Accelerated increase in plant species richness on mountain summits is linked to warming.
Globally accelerating trends in societal development and human environmental impacts since the mid-twentieth century <sup>1-7</sup> are known as the Great Acceleration and have been discussed as a key indicator of the onset of the Anthropocene epoch <sup>6</sup> . While reports on ecological responses (for example, changes in species range or local extinctions) to the Great Acceleration are multiplying <sup>8, 9</sup> , it is unknown whether such biotic responses are undergoing a similar acceleration over time. This knowledge gap stems from the limited availability of time series data on biodiversity changes across large temporal and geographical extents. Here we use a dataset of repeated plant surveys from 302 mountain summits across Europe, spanning 145 years of observation, to assess the temporal trajectory of mountain biodiversity changes as a globally coherent imprint of the Anthropocene. We find a continent-wide acceleration in the rate of increase in plant species richness, with five times as much species enrichment between 2007 and 2016 as fifty years ago, between 1957 and 1966. This acceleration is strikingly synchronized with accelerated global warming and is not linked to alternative global change drivers. The accelerating increases in species richness on mountain summits across this broad spatial extent demonstrate that acceleration in climate-induced biotic change is occurring even in remote places on Earth, with potentially far-ranging consequences not only for biodiversity, but also for ecosystem functioning and services.
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