A Richer, Greener and Smaller Alpine World: Review and Projection of Warming-Induced Plant Cover Change in the Swedish Scandes
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Alpine plant life is proliferating, biodiversity is on the rise and the mountain world appears more productive and inviting than ever. Upper range margin rise of trees and low-altitude (boreal) plant species, expansion of alpine grasslands and dwarf-shrub heaths are the modal biotic adjustments during the past few decades, after a century of substantial climate warming in the Swedish Scandes. This course of biotic landscape evolution has reached historical dimensions and broken a multi-millennial trend of plant cover retrogression, alpine tundra expansion, floristic and faunal impoverishment, all imposed by progressive and deterministic neoglacial climate cooling. Continued modest warming over the present century will likely be beneficial to alpine biodiversity, geoecological stability, resilience, sustainable reindeer husbandry and aesthetic landscape qualities. These aspects are highlighted by an integrative review of results from long-term monitoring of subalpine/alpine vegetation in the Swedish Scandes. This forms the basis for some tentative projections of landscape transformations in a potentially warmer future. Notably, these results and projections are not necessarily valid in other regions and differ in some respects from model predictions. Continued monitoring is mandatory as a basis for generation of more realistic vegetation and ecosystem models.