Alps in climate change: Many species adapt too slowly

Lay summary of the following paper: Yann Vitasse, Sylvain Ursenbacher, Geoffrey Klein, Thierry Bohnenstengel, Yannick Chittaro, Anne Delestrade, Christian Monnerat, Martine Rebetez, Christian Rixen, Nicolas Strebel, Benedikt R Schmidt, Sonja Wipf, Thomas Wohlgemuth, Nigel Gilles Yoccoz, Jonathan Lenoir (2021) Phenological and elevational shifts of plants, animals and fungi under climate change in the European Alps. Biological Reviews

La grenouille rousse (Rana temporaria) fait partie du groupe des amphibiens qui, à l’instar des insectes semi-aquatiques, ont peu décalé leur début d’activité au printemps
Image: Anne Delestrade

Many studies have independently demonstrated the impact of climate change on the seasonal activity and migration of plants and animals, but these consequences have never been analysed simultaneously at the scale of the Alps. A European team of ecologists led by Yann Vitasse (WSL) has just published a synthesis that quantifies these seasonal changes and the movements at altitude of more than 2000 species of plants, animals and fungi living in the Alps. The originality of the study is that it combines previously published results with new data from participatory science. The results are unequivocal and clearly show that species have responded with earlier seasonal activity and have shifted upward in altitude. However, the average upward shift rate varies between taxonomic groups and is often below the current rate of global warming.

The study also points out that data is still very limited for many animals, plants and fungi, but that the interest of citizen for science could be an asset for researchers, as citizen science programs are a very effective way of gathering a large number of observations in a short time.

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Dr Yann Vitasse
Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL)
Zürcherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf
Switzerland

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