Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 1301-1318

First online:

Vascular plant diversity and climate change in the alpine belt of the central Apennines (Italy)

  • Angela StanisciAffiliated withDepartment of Sciences and Technology of Environment and Territory, University of Molise Email author 
  • , Giovanni PelinoAffiliated withDepartment of Sciences and Technology of Environment and Territory, University of Molise
  • , Carlo BlasiAffiliated withDepartment of Plant Biology, University La Sapienza

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The aim of this study is to analyse the vascular flora and the local climate along the altitude gradient in the largest alpine belt of the central Apennines (Majella National Park), and to contribute to the evaluation of the possible effects of global climate changes on the biodiversity of the alpine ecosystem. For this purpose floristic-quantitative analyses and temperature records on three different summits have been carried out by using the methodological protocol of the UE-GLORIA project (2001 2003); the project aims toward a standardised monitoring of flora and temperature in the alpine environment of the main European chains. From the analysis of the changes in species richness along the altitude gradient (2405 m versus 2730 m a.s.l.), it emerged that 70% of species do not reach the highest summit and only 11% of the overall flora is shared by all of the summits examined; a drop in mean temperature has been observed at soil level, along the same gradient from 3.11 to 0.03 °C. Floristic-quantitative and climatic analyses have been carried out even along the horizontal gradient (principal exposures), highlighting a great species richness and vegetation cover in eastward aspects. We singled out some endangered rare species and we proved that the slopes facing east will be the first to be affected by the coming of subalpine species from below, whereas northward exposures will be the most conservative, showing greater inertia toward the invasive process caused by the climate warming.


Alpine belt Altitude gradient Central Italy Chorotypes Global change Life forms Plant species richness and threat