Rise in Mountain Plants Linked to Climate Change
By Tim Radford
Mountain plants are on the rise. The number of species on the highest European mountains has multiplied fivefold.
Data gathered over 145 years from 302 peaks shows that the count of wild plants that have colonized the highest zones has increased five times faster than during a comparable decade 50 years ago.
This may not, in the long run, be good news. The enriching of the high life is unequivocally linked to global warming: changes in precipitation, or in nutrient supplies, are not enough to account for the growth in alpine colonists.
More than 50 scientists from Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, Austria, the UK, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Spain and Slovakia reported in the journal Nature that such change has "potentially far-reaching consequences not only for biodiversity, but also for ecosystem functioning and services."
The finding was possible because European botanists and biologists began assembling data on the plant growth at the highest sites in the 1870s and have maintained their databases ever since.
The scientists found that between 1957 and 1966, the average number of species on the 300 peaks increased by 1.1 on average. Between 2007-2016, on average 5.5 species made it to the top.
The study does not, so far, suggest that new species have displaced the original residents. But plants adapted to the conditions on the highest peaks may run out of options as the mountains themselves get warmer.
"Some of the species which have adapted to the cold and rocky conditions on mountain summits will probably disappear in the long term. They have nowhere else to go, and they can't develop rapidly enough to be able to compete with the new arrivals, which are taller and more competitive under warmer climates," said Manuel Steinbauer, who led the research while at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, but who is now at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.
"The species that move upwards often come from grassland above the tree line. But they can't survive everywhere on the mountain top, so it's not certain that they will be a threat to all the existing species up there. The local soil conditions and micro-climates also play a role."
Mountains are natural laboratories, and researchers have been monitoring high altitude change for decades. Conservationists and biologists have repeatedly warned that mountain ecosystems are more vulnerable to climate change.
They have measured the rate at which plants, birds and insects have gained in altitude in the Swiss Alps and in the Andes. They have observed change in the mix of alpine flowers and even detected diminution in the body size of alpine chamois, with increasing temperature.
So change at the highest level comes as no great surprise. But as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise in response to ever greater use of fossil fuels, and as global average temperatures increase, species at the extremes could increasingly be at risk.
"Even though the existing species on mountain tops are not acutely endangered, the strong acceleration in the effects of global warming on plant communities on the peaks does give cause for concern, as we expect far stronger climate change toward 2100," explained Jens-Christian Svenning at Aarhus University, another of the authors.
New Study Is First to Demonstrate That Biodiversity Inoculates Against Extinction https://t.co/GsoGXgDP2b… https://t.co/W30DNURvN9— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520853013.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
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