Climate Change-Driven Extinction of Alpine Plant Species May Go Undetected

Researchers working in the Austrian Alps warn that current models may be missing the impending extinction of alpine plants that are unable to migrate from or adapt to a warming climate.

While current models tend to look for the mere presence or absence of a plant species as the primary indicator of how well they are adapting to changing climate conditions, a team of scientists at the University of Zurich say that they’re missing important data — namely, the density and age structure of these populations.

Much like an aging human population, the three alpine flower species and one alpine grass species targeted in the study are failing to produce viable replacements for the aging plants, creating what authors refer to as an “extinction debt.”


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