A micro-scale perspective on alpine floras under climate change

Linking observations and models to improve our understanding of the future of European high mountain plants

Duration: 2021-2025

Funding: European Research Council (ERC)

Team: ÖAW-IGF: GLORIA-Coordination in collaboration with teams of the University of Vienna, University of Innsbruck and with the European GLORIA partners.

Coordination: University of Vienna: Stefan Dullinger (principal investigator), ÖAW: Harald Pauli, University of Innsbruck: Martin Rutzinger

Link: project webpage

MICROCLIM aims to assess the thermal micro-niches of alpine plant species in the context of projected biodiversity losses through ongoing climate change by linking so far separated research strands of monitoring and predictive modelling of alpine plant distribution. In particular, we will, first, provide a comprehensive evaluation of standard modelling approaches by comparing their predictions with Europe-wide monitoring of mountain top floras and analyse the role of spatial scale for possible mismatches between models and observations of change. Second, we will develop a novel modelling framework that simulates the simultaneous range dynamics of many interacting species. We will parameterise this model by means of experiments and observational data and evaluate it against monitoring data on an exemplary mountain in the central high Alps. We will then apply the model to simulate the dynamics of the flora of this mountain over the 21st century at a very fine spatial resolution to evaluate the proposed rescue effect of microclimatic variation in alpine terrain. We will finally generalize the results achieved in these dynamic simulations to all summits included in the European mountaintop monitoring network GLORIA.

The results of MICROCLIM will help understanding how threatened the unique alpine flora of Europe actually is in a warming world and whether mitigating conservation measures will be required to secure its long-term survival.