Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA)

GMBA webinar - Alpine vegetation and climate change

Date: Thursday 22 February 2024, 9am CET
Speakers: Susanna Venn, Jeronimo Vazquez Ramirez, Manuela Winkler and Sabine Felkel
Zoom link

During this webinar, Susanna Venn, Jeronimo Vazquez Ramirez, Manuela Winkler and Sabine Felkel will talk about the effects of climate change on alpine vegetation, presenting results from the field and the lab.

Perspective I - Mountains as model environments to test plant responses to climate extremes ( Susanna Venn & Jeronimo Vazquez Ramirez): Mountain environments are characterised as highly heterogeneous with diverse topography-driven habitats, which are home to an equally diverse array of plant communities and endemic species. Of all the threats to mountain ecosystems, climate warming and reduced snowpack represent some of the key drivers of change. Earlier spring snowmelt, exposure to frosts, drier summers, extreme heat, longer growing seasons and an increased fire frequency not only have implications for plant growth, development and regeneration, but can lead to changes in community composition and species distributions. As plant ecologists, tasked with trying to understand ‘why plants grow where they do’, we can utilise the vast array of ‘experiments by nature’ across natural gradients in mountain landscapes and strengthen these with a powerful combination of in-situ and ex-situ experimental manipulations, to unravel the processes that underpin plant life in the mountains. We can then use this information in an attempt to predict how mountain landscapes will fare in future decades in the forecasted snow-free future. We will showcase some recent and some longer-term explorations into how high mountain plants respond to extreme environmental drivers, and how a combination of approaches and methodologies can reveal the hidden mechanisms behind these responses and subsequent plant community change in these model environments.

Perspective II - Climate change and intraspecific genetic diversity of alpine plants – where are we now? (Manuela Winkler & Sabine Felkel): The fingerprints of global climate change on phenology, species abundance and ranges as well as community composition of alpine plants are comparatively well understood. Much less is known about the impact of climate change on intraspecific genetic diversity. In this webinar we summarize the state of the art and talk about the potentials and limitations of space-for-time substitution and technical challenges of intraspecific genetic monitoring.