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Ascending Plants

August 25, 2008

Plant species are seeking refuge from climate change at higher altitudes.


Plants head for the hills. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Some people go to the mountains to beat the heat. Now, French and Chilean scientists report that plants are permanently moving to higher altitudes to escape global warming. They studied 171 plant species in six European mountain ranges, from sea level to 8500 feet above it. Jonathan Lenoir of the AgroParisTech Institute says that on average, the plant species have climbed almost 100 feet per decade since 1970, when temperatures started rising sharply. But they’re not all moving at the same rate, which complicates the picture.

JONATHAN LENOIR (AgroParisTech Institute, Nancy, France):
Because if some species move faster than others, you may dismantle the plant communities and thus you may change habitats.

And those fractured habitats may be inhospitable to local animals, as well as the plants themselves. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.