Article: article from journal or magazin.
Elevation gradient of successful plant traits for colonizing alpine summits under climate change
Environmental Research Letters
Upward migration of plant species due to climate change has become evident in several European mountain ranges. It is still, however, unclear whether certain plant traits increase the probability that a species will colonize mountain summits or vanish, and whether these traits differ with elevation. Here, we used data from a repeat survey of the occurrence of plant species on 120 summits, ranging from 2449 to 3418 m asl, in south-eastern Switzerland to identify plant traits that increase the probability of colonization or extinction in the 20th century. Species numbers increased across all plant traits considered. With some traits, however, numbers increased proportionally more. The most successful colonizers seemed to prefer warmer temperatures and well-developed soils. They produced achene fruits and/or seeds with pappus appendages. Conversely, cushion plants and species with capsule fruits were less efficient as colonizers. Observed changes in traits along the elevation gradient mainly corresponded to the natural distribution of traits. Extinctions did not seem to be clearly related to any trait. Our study showed that plant traits varied along both temporal and elevational gradients. While seeds with pappus seemed to be advantageous for colonization, most of the trait changes also mirrored previous gradients of traits along elevation and hence illustrated the general upward migration of plant species. An understanding of the trait characteristics of colonizing species is crucial for predicting future changes in mountain vegetation under climate change.
Alps, biodiversity, biological traits, colonization, extinction, floristic change, historical species records, monitoring, Switzerland
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