Functional traits of vascular plants colonizing alpine cushions

Global warming threatens species living in the highest and coldest areas. Alpine cushion plants are potentially endangered by stronger species expanding from lower elevations. This can be inferred from their ecological strategies.

Vascular plants in an alpine cushion

Dolezal et al. analyse traits and habitat preferences of plants colonizing Thylacospermum caespitosum (Caryophyllaceae), a dominant pioneer of Himalayan subnival zones. Successful colonizers are fast-growing, clonal graminoids and forbs, sharing the syndrome of competitive species with broad elevation ranges typical for the late stages of primary succession. Since climate change in the Himalayas favours these species, highly specialized cushion plants may face intense competition and a greater risk of decline in the future.

Further reading

Dolezal, J., Dvorsky, M., Kopecky, M., Altman, J., Mudrak, O., Capkova, K., … Liancourt, P. (2018). Functionally distinct assembly of vascular plants colonizing alpine cushions suggests their vulnerability to climate change. Annals of Botany, 123(4), 569–578. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcy207