At the invitation of Prof. Brigitta Erschbamer, I presented the interdisciplinary, international research project “MEDIALPS - Disentangling anthropogenic drivers of global change impacts on alpine plant species composition: Alps versus Mediterranean mountains” in the frame of the “Botanical colloquium” of the Institute of Botany of the University of Innsbruck on May 31st 2017.
Globally, ecosystems have been subjected to dramatic anthropogenic changes in the last decades, which affect also semi-natural environments such as mountain regions. The GLORIA (Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments, www.gloria.ac.at) network provides a unique dataset on changes in occurrence and abundance of alpine plants based on standardized monitoring on mountain summits all over the world. Monitoring of European summits showed that changes in biodiversity patterns were indeed related to rising temperatures, but climate change impacts on local occurrence and abundance of alpine plant species differed significantly between the temperate and the Mediterranean biome. Increasing species numbers in the Alps contrast with significant species declines on southern European mountains. The latter was attributed to higher temperatures and decreasing precipitation, probably in combination with direct anthropogenic influences such as land-use changes.
In this setting GLORIA with the section Remote Sensing and Geomatics of the IGF, University of Vienna and international partners launched the interdisciplinary project MEDIALPS funded in the frame of the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ “Earth System Science” program. Our aim is to assess the relative effect of drivers other than temperature on changes in biodiversity patterns which have hitherto been largely neglected. These drivers belong to various Earth subsystems including soil water potential, precipitation and solar radiation as additional key climatic factors for plant growth, geomorphology, deposition of nitrogen and land-use changes in the alpine life zone. After two years of intensive field-work we now enter a phase of integrative analysis where data from various fields of global change research and both local and regional spatial scales are combined.
Finally, I’d like to thank all participants of the colloquium for their feedback and the fruitful discussions following my talk, and the organizers for the nice beer and food!