Azara Blog: Sample of plants in France moving upwards at rate of 2.9m per year

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Date published: 2008/06/27

The BBC says:

Climate change has caused plants to seek cooler conditions at higher altitudes, scientists suggest.

A study of 171 forest species in mountain ranges of western Europe found that many plants had climbed an average of 29 metres each decade.

Smaller species such as ferns, which had shorter reproduction cycles, were the quickest to relocate, the researchers said.
In order to do this, the team of French and Chilean researchers compared the distribution of forest species between 1905 and 1985 with their distribution between 1986 and 2005.

"This work was possible because of two large-scale, long-term databases that have recorded the presence of forest species since 1905," [Jonathan Lenoir, the paper's lead author] explained.

"We used 171 species commonly found over French mountains, which are part of Mediterranean, temperature and mountainous forest ecosystems between 0m to 2,600m above sea level.

"We found a significant change in species' altitudinal distribution towards higher elevation of about 29 metres per decade.

"Out of the 171 species, most are shifting upwards to recover temperature conditions that are optimal for their development and reproduction."

Not surprising at all but the quantification is interesting. 100 years x 2.9 m/year = 290 m, which is not inconsiderable. And it's an average, and presumably some species are perfectly happy to stay still, so some must be moving uphill faster. This rate ought to be increasing, so, as to be expected, some species will soon enough run out of space to move.

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