The potential impacts of climate change on plant communities in the Kosciuszko alpine zone
The potential impacts of increased temperatures, decreased precipitation and decreased duration of snow cover over the next seventy years are evaluated for twelve plant communities in the Kosciuszko alpine region of Australia. The approach taken is speculative and provides a series of hypotheses about potential patterns of change. The short alpine herbfield and snowbank feldmark communities are likely to be negatively affected by the predicted declining snow cover, as snowbanks become fewer and smaller. Windswept feldmark, however, may become more widespread if snow cover declines, exposing new areas to freezing temperatures, high winds and resultant loss of soil cover. Climate change initially may have a beneficial or neutral effect on the tall alpine herbfield. If snow cover continues to decline below 3-4 months per year, as is predicted, then the tall alpine herbfield could eventually decline in area. Bogs, fens, raised bog and valley bog communities are likely to vary in area as changes in precipitation, runoff and evaporation alter the competitive ability of plant species belonging to these communities. Heath communities are likely to increase in area as increasing temperature and declining snow cover favour shrub species over grasses and herbs. Increasing diversity and abundance of alien plant species within the alpine zone are likely to continue and may be amplified by climate change.
The Victorian Naturalist