August 13, 2008
GERMANY: Plant Species Threatened By Climate Change
Climate change alters growing conditions in many regions of the world. How global warming could affect Germany's flora researchers have now simulated using computer models.
One in five of Germany's plant species could lose parts of its current range, a study by scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the French Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine reveals. Species distributions will be rearranged as a result of climate change; this could have a dramatic impact particularly on the vegetation in south-western and eastern Germany. The researchers have modeled and recorded how the ranges of a total of 845 European plant species will shift under three different future scenarios. Even moderate climate change and limited land use changes could have an adverse impact on flora, the researchers write in the current edition of Biology Letters. The research shows how important it is to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level in order to preserve broad biodiversity in plant species.
"Many plant species could lose their niches in habitats such as mountains or moors," Sven Pompe from UFZ explains. Migrating species from southern Europe could not compensate for these losses in the models. The marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), for example, is one of the losers to climate change. The changes in the environmental conditions in the scenarios will result in this species disappearing locally from the low-lying areas of Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. In contrast, the common walnut (Juglans regia), originally introduced north of the Alps by the Romans, would find more areas with suitable conditions and could extend into eastern Germany.
The third party funded project "Modellierung der Auswirkungen des Klimawandels auf die Flora" [Modeling of the impacts of climate change on the flora (of Germany)] was funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funds from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and as part of the European Union's ALARM, MACIS and ECOCHANGE research projects. Impacts of climate change on biodiversity are being researched by UFZ and PIK in the joint projects "Protected Areas in Germany under Global Change - Risks and Policy Options" and ALARM.
Image 1: A loser of climate change: Common spruce (Picea abies) is adapted to cool and humid conditions which are projected to prevail in smaller areas of Germany in the future. Water stress can increase the susceptibility of the tree species to pests and storms. Photo: Tilo Arnold/UFZ
Image 2: A winner of climate change: the range of walnut (Juglans regia) increases. This species is projected to find suitable mild climate in larger areas of Germany due to global warming. Photo: Franz Badeck/PIK
On the Net:
- Modeling the impact of climate change on plant distribution in Germany
- Protected Areas in Germany under Global Change - Risks and Policy Options
- FloraWeb "“ Information from the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)
- ALARM "“ Assessing Large Scale Risks for Biodiversity with tested Methods
- MACIS "“ Minimization of and Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity
- ECOCHANGE "“ Biodiversity and Ecosystem Changes in Europe