The consequences of the Alps climate crisis are already visible from space

The climate crisis is transforming the Alps so dramatically that changes are visible from space, a new study has found.

In the twentieth century, the Alps warmed by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which was twice the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere.

Today, a research team led by Swiss scientists found that 77% of the land above the arboretum in the Alps, where the height becomes too high for trees, but where some vegetation can still grow, has become green since the mid-1980s. .

While growing plant growth may seem positive, it can push out native wildlife plants by changing new species and habitats.

“These high mountain species have adapted very well to this harsh climate and this hostile environment,” said Sabine Rampoff, an environmental researcher and co-author of the study at the University of Basel. Freedom.

Some arid areas have turned green, Dr. Rumph said, but it was also likely that the growth of existing plants has become denser due to changes in temperature and rainfall as lower-species species have risen.

According to a study published in the Academic Journal on Thursday, the team used satellite data to measure land cover changes in the Alps from 1984 to 2021. Science.

Using satellite data, scientists were able to determine how much chlorophyll, the substance that makes plants green and helps photosynthesis, is in a specific location. Researchers have used this information to measure plant growth in the Alps over the years.

Satellite imagery of Switzerland in 2020 (left) compared to 2004 (right). Data from the Federal Survey Office

High alpine regions have unique species and ecosystems that can be threatened as plant growth accelerates. In this case, Saxifraga paniculataA flower with a single bunch of white petals, retreats and “is very lost,” said Dr. Rampoff says.

Some specialized plants, such as those recently grown in glacier-covered areas, may be lost to new conditions, he added.

“These high mountain experts are a genus of the flagship species of the European Alps,” said Dr. Rampoff.

Theoretically, plant growth means more carbon dioxide (CO2) is being removed from the atmosphere, which will help reduce global warming.

But don’t hold your breath for that silver lining, Dr. Rumpoff says, because at higher altitudes plants don’t absorb carbon dioxide like in places like tropical rainforests, so the effect will be limited.

In addition to vegetation, the researchers also observed snow cover. They found some damage to the snow cover, but it was less common than changes in plant growth.

One reason may be the way the snow cover was measured. Dr. Rumph noted that his satellite data can only provide information on how much land is covered in snow, not how thick it is.

Previous studies have shown that snow in the Alps has been thinning for the past four decades.

In addition to high temperatures, changes in rainfall and snowfall, possibly due to climate crisis, can also affect plant growth and snow cover.

More warming could bring more change to the Alps, but it’s not clear how. So it is possible that the Capa de Nive will continue to decline, according to L. Dr. Rampoff, in contrast to L. “reverdecimento” that Padria will be transformed into a “Pardemianto”, so that the situation in Medida begins to disappear. Too hot or too dry, for example.

Either way, it is clear that the climate crisis will transform Europe’s iconic central mountain range.

“I guess most people imagine the beautiful nature of the Alps and the Alps and all those alpine flowers,” said Dr. Rampoff.

“And if this process continues, we may lose the species and the environment with which we actually connect a large part of our heritage.”

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