Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 1157–1169 | Cite as

Drastic reduction in the potential habitats for alpine and subalpine vegetation in the Pyrenees due to twenty-first-century climate change

  • Nora Pérez-García
  • Xavier Font
  • Albert Ferré
  • Jordi Carreras
Original Article


Recent climate change is already affecting both ecosystems and the organisms that inhabit them, with mountains and their associated biota being particularly vulnerable. Due to the high conservation value of mountain ecosystems, reliable science-based information is needed to implement additional conservation efforts in order to ensure their future. This paper examines how climate change might impact on the distribution of the main alpine and subalpine vegetation in terms of losses of suitable area in the Oriental Pyrenees. The algorithm of maximum entropy (Maxent) was used to relate current environmental conditions (climate, topography, geological properties) to present data for the studied vegetation units, and time and space projections were subsequently carried out considering climate change predictions for the years 2020, 2050 and 2080. All models predicted rising altitude trends for all studied vegetation units. Moreover, the analysis of future trends under different climate scenarios for 2080 suggests an average loss in potential ranges of 92.3–99.9 % for alpine grasslands, 76.8–98.4 % for subalpine (and alpine) scrublands and 68.8–96.1 % for subalpine forest. The drastic reduction in the potential distribution areas for alpine grasslands, subalpine scrublands and Pinus uncinata forests highlights the potential severity of the effects of climate change on vegetation in the highest regions of the Pyrenees. Thus, alpine grasslands can be expected to become relegated to refuge areas (summit areas), with their current range being taken over by subalpine scrublands. Furthermore, subalpine forest units will probably become displaced and will occupy areas that currently present subalpine scrub vegetation.


Alpine grasslands Climate change Maxent Pinus uncinata forest Pyrenees Subalpine shrubs 

Supplementary material

10113_2013_427_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 2,350 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nora Pérez-García
    • 1
  • Xavier Font
    • 1
  • Albert Ferré
    • 1
  • Jordi Carreras
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant BiologyUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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