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Upward shift in elevational plant species ranges in Sikkilsdalen, central Norway

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Phytosociological studies can be an important tool to detect temporal vegetation changes in response to global climate change. In this study, we present the results of a resurvey of a plot‐based phytosociological study from Sikkilsdalen, central Norway, originally executed between 1922 and 1932. By using a detailed phytosociological study we are able to investigate several aspects of elevational shifts in species ranges. Here we tested for upward and downward shifts in observed upper and lower distribution limits of species, as well as changes in species optima along an elevational gradient, and related the observed range shifts to species traits that could explain the observed trends.

More species shifted upwards than downwards, independently of whether we were investigating shifts in species’ upper or lower distribution ranges or in species optima. However, shifts in species upper range margins changed independently of their lower range margins. Linking different species traits to the magnitude of shifts we found that species with a higher preference for prolonged snow cover shifted upwards more in their upper elevational limits and in their optima than species that prefer a shorter snow cover, whereas no species traits were correlated with the magnitude of changes in lower limits.

The observed change in species ranges concord both with studies on other mountains in the region and with studies from other alpine areas. Furthermore, our study indicates that different factors are influencing species ranges at the upper and lower range limits. Increased precipitation rates and increased temperatures are considered the most important factors for the observed changes, probably mainly through altering the pattern in snow cover dynamics in the area.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept of Biology, Univ. of Bergen, Thormøhlensgate 53A, NO-5006 Bergen, Norway

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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