The End of Alpine Meadows? Climate Change Pushing Out Mountain Flowers

A new study says that a warming climate is having a more profound effect on the world’s mountain vegetation than previously believed and that some alpine meadows could vanish altogether within a few

After comparing vegetation samples from 60 mountain summits in 13 European nations — collected in 2001 and then again in 2008 — a team of scientists found that cold-loving plants are being pushed out by plants that thrive in warmer temperatures. While earlier studies have made this conclusion at regional levels, researchers say this is the first time that the phenomenon has been shown on a continental scale.

It’s also happening more quickly than expected.

“Many cold-loving species are literally running out of mountain,” said Michael Gottfried, a researcher with the Austria-based Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments, which coordinated the study. “In some of the lower mountains in Europe, we could see alpine meadows disappearing and dwarf shrubs taking over within the next few decades.” The study is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In affiliation with Yale Environment 360. Photo by Harald Pauli. Environmental coverage made possible in part by support from Patagonia. For information on Patagonia and its environmental efforts, visit

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