When weather extremes cause plants to climb mountains

Thursday, 10 November, 2016 - 14:22

Swiss scientists are carrying out a long-term study into the effects of climate change on Alpine plants.

The research, centred in the Glarus Alps, is taking place just as 20 thousand participants meet in Morocco to agree the details for implementing the global Paris accord to combat global warming.

Biologists from the Federal Technology Institute (ETH) and the University of Lausanne want to find out what happens when global warming or cooling causes plants to migrate into unchartered territory, for instance growing in higher regions to escape the heat below. 

They are also exploring what influence this migration has on existing communities of Alpine plants and how the increased presence of insects may affect plant behaviour. 

The research involves digging up two-square-metre turfs from higher regions of the Calanda mountain and replanting them lower down the mountain to see how they interact with species already present there. 

The research group merges mathematical theory, greenhouse experiments, and field studies to research questions in plant ecology.

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