Accelerated increase in plant species richness on mountain summits is linked to warming

Manuel J. Steinbauer, John-Arvid Grytnes, Gerald Jurasinski, Aino Kulonen, Jonathan Lenoir, Harald Pauli, Christian Rixen, Manuela Winkler, Manfred Bardy-Durchhalter, Elena Barni, Anne D. Bjorkman, Frank T. Breiner, Sarah Burg, Patryk Czortek, Melissa A. Dawes, Anna Delimat, Stefan Dullinger, Brigitta Erschbamer, Vivian A. Felde, Olatz Fernández-ArberasKjetil F. Fossheim, Daniel Gómez-García, Damien Georges, Erlend T. Grindrud, Sylvia Haider, Siri V. Haugum, Hanne Henriksen, María J. Herreros, Bogdan Jaroszewicz, Francesca Jaroszynska, Robert Kanka, Jutta Kapfer, Kari Klanderud, Ingolf Kühn, Andrea Lamprecht, Magali Matteodo, Umberto Morra di Cella, Signe Normand, Arvid Odland, Siri L. Olsen, Sara Palacio, Martina Petey, Veronika Piscová, Blazena Sedlakova, Klaus Steinbauer, Veronika Stöckli, Jens-Christian Svenning, Guido Teppa, Jean-Paul Theurillat, Pascal Vittoz, Sarah J Woodin, Niklaus E. Zimmermann, Sonja Wipf

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Globally accelerating trends in societal development and human environmental impacts since the mid-20th century1-7 are known as the Great Acceleration and discussed as a key indicator of the onset of the Anthropocene6. While reports on ecological responses (e.g. species range shifts or local extinctions) to the Great Acceleration are multiplying8,9, it is unknown whether such biotic responses are undergoing a similar acceleration over time. This knowledge gap stems from the limited availability of time series data on biodiversity changes across large temporal and geographical extents. Here, we use a unique dataset of repeated plant surveys from 302 mountain summits across Europe, spanning 145 years of observation, to assess the temporal trajectory of mountain biodiversity changes as a globally coherent imprint of the Anthropocene. We find a continent-wide acceleration in the rate of plant species richness increase, with five times higher species enrichment over the last decade compared to fifty years ago. This acceleration is strikingly synchronized with accelerated global warming, and not linked to alternative global change drivers. The accelerating increases in species richness on mountain summits across this broad spatial extent demonstrate that acceleration in climate-induced biotic changes is occurring even at remote places on Earth, with potentially far-ranging consequences not only for biodiversity, but also for ecosystem functioning and services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-234
Number of pages4
Early online date4 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

We thank D. Barolin, J. Birks, A. Björken, C. Björken, S. Dahle, U. Deppe, G. Dussassois, J. V. Ferrández, T. Gassner, S. Giovanettina, F. Giuntoli, Ø. Lunde Heggebø, K. Herz, A. Jost, K. Kallnik, W. Kapfer, T. Kronstad, H. Laukeland, S. Nießner, M. Olson, P. Roux-Fouillet, K. Schofield, M. Suen, D. Watson, J. Wells Abbott, J. Zaremba and numerous additional helpers for fieldwork support; P. Barancˇ ok, J. L. Benito Alonso, M. Camenisch, G. Coldea, J. Dick, M. Gottfried, G. Grabherr, J. I. Holten, J. Kollár, P. Larsson, M. Mallaun, O. Michelsen, U. Molau, M. Pus¸  cas¸ , T. Scheurer, P. Unterluggauer, L. Villar, G.-R. Walther, and numerous helpers for data originating from the GLORIA network13; C. Jenks for linguistic support; and the following institutions for funding. M.J.S.: Danish Carlsbergfondet (CF14-0148), EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie action (grant 707491). C.R., V.S., S.W.: Velux Foundation, Switzerland. C.R., V.S., S.W., J.-P.T., P.V.: Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). A.K.: Swiss National Science Foundation (31003A_144011 to C.R.), Basler Stiftung für biologische Forschung, Switzerland. J.K.: Fram Centre, Norway (362202). J.K., J.-A.G., P.C., B.J.: Polish-Norwegian Research Programme of the Norwegian National Centre for Research and Development (Pol-Nor/196829/87/2013). O.F.-A., M.J.H., S.P.: Instituto de Estudios Altoaragoneses (Huesca, Spain). S.D.: Austrian Climate Research Programme (ACRP, project 368575: DISEQU-ALP). F.J.: Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland; Alpine Garden Society, UK. M.J.H.: Felix de Azara research grant (IBERSUMIT project, DPH, Spain). R.K.: Slovak Research and Development Agency (APVV 0866-12). S.N., D.G.: VILLUM Foundation’s Young Investigator Programme (VKR023456; Denmark). S.P.: Ramón y Cajal fellowship (RYC-2013-14164, Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Spain). J.-C.S.: European Research Council (ERC-2012-StG-310886-HISTFUNC); VILLUM Investigator project (VILLUM FONDEN grant 16549; Denmark). S.W.: WSL internal grant (201307N0678, Switzerland); EU FP7 Interact Transnational Access (AlpFlor Europe). S.W., S.B., F.J., M.J.H.: Swiss Botanical Society Alpine Flower Fund. Time and effort was supported by sDiv, the Synthesis Centre of iDiv, Germany (DFG FZT 118, sUMMITDiv working group).


  • biodiversity
  • climate-change ecology
  • climate-change impacts
  • macroecology
  • plant sciences


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