Climate warming and recruitment success in glacier forelands

Glacier foreland plants are highly threatened by global warming. Regeneration from seeds on deglaciated terrain will be crucial for successful migration and survival of these species, and hence a better understanding of the impacts of climate change on seedling recruitment is urgently needed to predict future plant persistence in these environments.

Geum reptans
Geum reptans

Mondoni et al. sow seeds of eight foreland species at 2500 m altitude and at a site 400 m lower to simulate a +2·7 °C increase in mean annual temperature, and find that at the warmer site there is a shift from summer to autumn emergence in two species and a significant increase of summer emergence in all species except two. They conclude that warming will influence recruitment primarily via the extension of the snow-free period in spring, increasing seedling emergence and survival. The changes in recruitment success that are observed imply that range shifts or changes in abundance are possible in a future warmer climate.

This article appears in the special issue Plants and Climate Change.