Recent Plant Diversity Changes on Europe's Mountain Summits

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Abstract

In mountainous regions, climate warming is expected to shift species' ranges to higher altitudes. Evidence for such shifts is still mostly from revisitations of historical sites. We present recent (2001 to 2008) changes in vascular plant species richness observed in a standardized monitoring network across Europe's major mountain ranges. Species have moved upslope on average. However, these shifts had opposite effects on the summit floras' species richness in boreal-temperate mountain regions (+3.9 species on average) and Mediterranean mountain regions (-1.4 species), probably because recent climatic trends have decreased the availability of water in the European south. Because Mediterranean mountains are particularly rich in endemic species, a continuation of these trends might shrink the European mountain flora, despite an average increase in summit species richness across the region.

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