Plant Ecology

, Volume 214, Issue 11, pp 1309-1319

First online:

Spatial contexts for temporal variability in alpine vegetation under ongoing climate change

  • George P. MalansonAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of Iowa Email author 
  • , Daniel B. FagreAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

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A framework to monitor mountain summit vegetation (The Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments, GLORIA) was initiated in 1997. GLORIA results should be taken within a regional context of the spatial variability of alpine tundra. Changes observed at GLORIA sites in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA are quantified within the context of the range of variability observed in alpine tundra across much of western North America. Dissimilarity is calculated and used in nonmetric multidimensional scaling for repeated measures of vascular species cover at 14 GLORIA sites with 525 nearby sites and with 436 sites in western North America. The lengths of the trajectories of the GLORIA sites in ordination space are compared to the dimensions of the space created by the larger datasets. The absolute amount of change on the GLORIA summits over 5 years is high, but the degree of change is small relative to the geographical context. The GLORIA sites are on the margin of the ordination volumes with the large datasets. The GLORIA summit vegetation appears to be specialized, arguing for the intrinsic value of early observed change in limited niche space.


Alpine tundra Ordination Climate change Plant community Similarity Western USA