We often focus on what impact climate change is having on the oceans and rainforests across the globe, but sometimes we forget to look at how it is affecting vital areas like mountain forests. Mountain forests are essential to our Earth’s ecosystem; they provide protection, host a myriad of species, and bind greenhouse gases. So as the planet warms, researchers wonder: what will happen to the forests?
To figure it out, researchers at ETH Zurich tested several scenarios on two different mountain valleys in the Alps to create five ecosystem models. Researchers used low or no intervention scenarios that assumed little change in current greenhouse gases and also a scenario that assumed stabilization of current global warming trends. To reach these conclusions, researchers looked at carbon storage, runoff, diversity, wood production, and protection.
Researchers found that if the planet warms by more than two degrees, there will be significant impact on forests. In particular, protection against avalanches and rock falls in lower elevations would decrease dramatically. Drought is particularly likely at lower elevations, while higher elevations may see a temporary increase in growth. The researchers concluded that adaptation measures, such as planting drought-tolerant plant species, are necessary in the prevention of devastating consequences.
Researchers caution that any simulation is subject to uncertainty, so the findings should be taken with a grain of salt. What is certain is that without immediate change, the planet will continue to be negatively impacted by global warming.
+ ETH Zurich
images from Axel-D and John Morgan