Vascular plant diversity and climate change in the alpine zone of the Snowy Mountains, Australia

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Pickering, Catherine
Hill, Wendy
Green, Ken
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Alan T Bull (Editor-in-Chief)
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2008
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Abstract

This study examines vascular plant species richness along an altitudinal gradient in alpine Australia. Vascular plant composition and soil temperature records were obtained for five summits (from 1729 m to 2114 m a.s.l.) using sampling protocols from the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments program. Species richness was examined against altitude, aspect and climatic variables at different spatial scales (10 x 10 cm quadrats, 1 m2 quadrats, clusters of 4 * 1 m2 quadrats, for the summit area above a line 5 m altitudinally below the summit (the -5 m isoline), for the extended summit down to the -10 m isoline). 75 taxa (70 species, 5 graminoid genera) were recorded, 9 of which are endemic to the small alpine area of ~100 km2. There were significant linear relationships between species richness and altitude and climatic variables for the top to -5 isolines on the summits. However, there was no consistent pattern for species richness at other spatial scales, altitude, aspect or climatic variables. The proportion of species for the whole summits with localised distributions (local endemics) increased with altitude. Predicted increasing temperatures and reduced snowcover is likely to result in an increase in species richness as shrubs, herbs and introduced weeds become more common at higher altitude. Because Australian alpine areas occur in narrow altitudinal bands with no nival zone, there are no higher altitudinal refuges available for alpine species. Therefore many of these species are likely to be at risk of extinction from climate change.

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Biodiversity and Conservation
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© 2008 Springer-Verlag. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com
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Other environmental sciences not elsewhere classified
Ecology
Plant biology not elsewhere classified
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