Scientists reveal the consequences of the climate in the Alps

The Alpine space is particularly vulnerable to global warming. This European mountain range, like the Arctic, is getting greener and greener.

Researchers from the University of Lausanne and the University of Basel have used satellite data to show that vegetation above the tree line has grown in around 80% of the Alps, according to a study published in the science journal.

The snow cover is also decreasing, but only marginally so far.

Climate change in the Alps

(Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

In the Alps, melting glaciers have become a symbol of global warming.

The decrease in snow cover is now visible from space, although it is far from being the most significant.

Professor Sabine Rumpf from the University of Basel, Professor Grégoire Mariéthoz from the University of Lausanne and Professor Antoine Guisan from the University of Lausanne came to this conclusion.

Scientists used high-resolution geospatial data to study changes in snow cover and plant species from 1984 to 2021, in collaboration with colleagues from the Netherlands and Finland.

More than 77% of the measured area experienced an increase in plant biomass above the tree line during this period.

According to Sabine Rumpf, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Basel since February, “the scale of change has proven to be extremely enormous in the Alps”, according to Eurekalert.

Because the plants colonize new places and the vegetation densifies and rises, the Alps are greening.

Previous research has mainly focused on the impact of climate change on alpine biodiversity and changes in plant distribution.

No one had ever made a detailed survey of plant production variations in the Alps before.

The authors demonstrated that rising temperatures lead to changes in precipitation and extended vegetative periods, leading to increased plant biomass.

Read also : Giant Marine Reptile Fossil Discovered Above the Swiss Alps

snow cover

The persistence of snow on the ground for long periods is one of the fundamental characteristics of mountain landscapes, according to CREA Mont-Blanc.

Snow cover duration patterns are closely related to topographic features such as height, aspect, and slope angle.

Snow, by its very nature, has a significant impact on local climatic conditions, whether it is deciding the length of the growing season possible, providing insulation against freezing temperatures or providing a source of vital water during the spring melt.

Temperatures in the European Alps have increased by 2°C (3.6°F) throughout the 20th century.

This increase is higher than the French average of +1.4°C (2.5°F) and double that of the northern hemisphere.

Since the 1980s, the rate of warming has climbed to 0.5°C (0.9°F) every decade, the fastest rate since the start of the industrial revolution.

In terms of temperature, 0.5°C corresponds to an altitude difference of approximately 100 meters (328 feet).

This indicated that the species had to travel 100 meters upstream in order to maintain the same temperature conditions.

The local composition of plants is changing under the effect of climate change.

The team argued that the Alps become greener as plants colonize new lands and the environment becomes denser and higher in general.

According to the research team, as global warming continues, the Alps will continue to transform from snow-covered to green and bushy, creating a vicious spiral.

According to lead author Professor Sabine Rumpf of the University of Basel, greener mountains reflect less sunlight, causing further warming and, therefore, further reduction in reflective snow cover.

Related article: Pink ice in the Alps: how threatening can it be for glaciers?

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