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Session Overview
KEYNOTE 2: Alpine biota under environmental change
Monday, 09/Sep/2019:
9:05am - 9:30am

Location: Congress center
Sall Innsbruck
by Christian K├Ârner

Session Abstract

Global change is more than climatic warming. It includes changes in atmospheric chemistry, precipitation and snow pack, and a multitude of land use changes. In this presentation I will touch upon several of these changes. By intercepting atmospheric circulation and through the forces of gravity, the impact of mountains teleconnects to the forelands, affecting the wellbeing of about half of mankind, while hosting 0.5 billion inhabitants. Life in mountains is driven by elevationally declining temperatures, often paralleled by region-specific changes in precipitation. While these climatic gradients were never stable, life in mountains has been more resilient than one might expect because of topographic diversity and a great buffering capacity of the dominant plant cover, either by long life (trees) and or by the clonal life strategy of plants above treeline. The mosaics of habitat types safeguard an exceptional biological diversity which causes mountains to represent hot spots of biodiversity. Short distance environmental gradients, engraved into the mountain landscape, also represent models for future changes in land cover. In a warming climate, alpine biota will gain space by retreating glaciers and upslope expansion, but they will lose space by the inevitable advance of treeline. These shifts have so far been evidenced for alpine biota, plants in particular, while the treeline shift lags behind. Once the new treelines will be in phase with climatic warming, the alpine biota will have undergone a net loss in area globally. Whether this will incur a loss of alpine species depends on the elevation of a mountain range and soil conditions. The most endangered biota in mountains are those that undergo land use changes.

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