7th of July 2022
The climate crisis has hit the Alps and got nine lives; 3 more are missing. Last June, a heat wave marked temperatures over 20ºC down the hill and 10ºC at the top of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps (4,809m). As a result, the ecosystem is changing; recently, researchers have shown with satellite clarity how the alps are getting greener in the last 40 years.
The climate crisis has hit the Alps and got seven lives; 11 more have disappeared. Last June, a heat wave marked temperatures over 20ºC down the hill and 10ºC at the top of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps (4,809m). Hence, the ecosystem is changing; recently, researchers have shown with satellite clarity how the alps are getting greener in the last 40 years.
Climate has an endless net of connectors. For example, the Atlantic streaming, which transports heat from the tropics to the poles, is slowing down due to the rising temperature. It may cause more water evaporation and increase the waterfall afterwards. Also, those connections also affect the heights; the alps are getting greener
A report published in the journal Science shows that the vegetation above the tree line has increased by nearly 80%. It means plant species grow faster and taller, and newly colonising species. Furthermore, the snow mass has slightly decreased as well. It means it has changed the tone to greener when seen from space.
«The scale of the change has turned out to be absolutely massive in the Alps,» says Sabine Rumpf, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Basel (Switzerland). The biomass increase is due to changes in precipitation and longer vegetation periods due to rising temperatures.
Academics analysed all Landsats images available in Google Earth Engine from 1984 to 2021, for June to September. Furthermore, the investigation excludes areas below 1,700m, forests and glaciers.
They also noted a decrease in the snow cover by a small percentage. However, the authors highlight that worrying trend and infer that this might have downward consequences in the water stream. They recall the alps are the birthplace of the main rivers in the centre of Europe. Italy has already declared state of emergency due to worst draught in 70 years.
Super species lose their advantage
Conditions are harsh at that altitude; temperature, wind, snow, and the biota have adapted. Therefore, a slight change might mean a lot for a super-adapted species. Antoine Guisan from the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) and co-author worries about the near future, «if more vigorous plants migrating up from lower elevations can colonise the high elevation, it will likely be at the cost of losing specialised high alpine plant species.»
Climate environments are moving toward the poles and upwards; thus, wildlife is migrating as the evolutionary process gets too long, «the current rate of climate change might not allow all species to migrate upward fast enough. The highest elevation species won’t find new spaces higher up and, therefore, could likely become extinct.»
A causa delle alte temperature un seracco di ghiaccio si stacca dalla Marmolada provocando 6 morti, 8 feriti e 10 dispersi. L'Italia ed il pianeta sono in piena emergenza climatica. pic.twitter.com/LYYf7OL5XW— Marco M.M. (@MMmarco0) July 3, 2022
Data is irrefutable; the climate is changing. The interdisciplinary team of Crowther lab studies ecosystems on a global scale to understand the relationships between biodiversity and climate change. Dr Daniel Maynard, the lead scientist, thinks the key is how fast species adapt, «Alpine environments are changing especially rapidly, which is putting enormous pressure on the species specifically adapted to them». He names climate change an «existential threat» to many species.
Regarding species colonising new places, he refuses to call it invasive, as they are moving in groups to adapt. «We wouldn’t call those that do invasive as range shifts are common. But the same principle holds when asking why some species are successful when invading.»
As Darwin said, it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.