The Response of Alpine Plants to Environmental Change: Feedbacks to Ecosystem Function
Alpine ecosystems occur on all continents, and potentially serve as sensitive indicators of biotic response to environmental change. Because environmental change associated with resource extraction and development is minimal in most alpine areas, biotic changes in the alpine are reflective of “indirect” anthropogenic environmental effects, including changes in climate, atmospheric chemistry, and transmission of ultraviolet radiation. Plant species respond differentially to these environmental changes, related in part to their ability to alter growth rates as resource supply changes and to changes in biotic interactions with neighbors (Theodose and Bowman 1995; Callaway et al. 2002). Thus, changes in plant species composition are likely to herald environmental change in the alpine. Floristic changes have been noted in some alpine areas, potentially associated with climate change (Grabherr et al. 1994), atmospheric pollution (Rusek 1992), and increased N deposition (Korb and Ranker 2001; see Baron et al., this volume for aquatic biotic responses to N deposition).
KeywordsAlpine Biotic change Nitrogen deposition Plant influences on nutrient cycling Rocky Mountains
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