Changes in plant diversity in a water‑limited and isolated high‑mountain range (Sierra Nevada, Spain)
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AuthorLamprecht, Andrea; Pauli, H.; Fernández-Calzado, Rosa; Lorite Moreno, Juan; Molero Mesa, Joaquín; Steinbauer, Klaus; Winkler, Manuela
Alpine plant diversityClimate changeGLORIA programmeLocal endemic speciesMediterranean mountainWater-limited ecosystem
Lamprecht, A., Pauli, H., Fernández Calzado, M.R. et al. Changes in plant diversity in a water-limited and isolated high-mountain range (Sierra Nevada, Spain). Alp Botany (2021). [https://doi.org/10.1007/s00035-021-00246-x]
SponsorshipUniversity of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) - Austrian Academy of Sciences
Climate change impacts are of a particular concern in small mountain ranges, where cold-adapted plant species have their optimum zone in the upper bioclimatic belts. This is commonly the case in Mediterranean mountains, which often harbour high numbers of endemic species, enhancing the risk of biodiversity losses. This study deals with shifts in vascular plant diversity in the upper zones of the Sierra Nevada, Spain, in relation with climatic parameters during the past two decades. We used vegetation data from permanent plots of three surveys of two GLORIA study regions, spanning a period of 18 years (2001–2019); ERA5 temperature and precipitation data; and snow cover durations, derived from on-site soil temperature data. Relationships between diversity patterns and climate factors were analysed using GLMMs. Species richness showed a decline between 2001 and 2008, and increased thereafter. Species cover increased slightly but significantly, although not for endemic species. While endemics underwent cover losses proportional to non-endemics, more widespread shrub species increased. Precipitation tended to increase during the last decade, after a downward trend since 1960. Precipitation was positively related to species richness, colonisation events, and cover, and negatively to disappearance events. Longer snow cover duration and rising temperatures were also related to increasing species numbers, but not to cover changes. The rapid biotic responses of Mediterranean alpine plants indicate a tight synchronisation with climate fluctuations, especially with water availability. Thus, it rather confirms concerns about biodiversity losses, if projections of increasing temperature in combination with decreasing precipitation hold true.