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Future climate of the Carpathians: climate change hot-spots and implications for ecosystems

Abstract

The Carpathians are the largest European mountain range and harbour exceptional biodiversity. However, recent and anticipated changes in climate along with rapid social and economic development suggest that the region’s values may not be sustained. We strived to identify the main regional climate change hot-spots and evaluate the distribution of climatically exposed land-use types and ecosystems. The analysis was based on 10 climate models driven by the emission scenario A1B. To identify the hot-spots, we adopted a methodology based on change trajectories in a multidimensional climate space. Three hot-spots were in the Western Carpathians (Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary), two were in Ukraine, and three were in the Romanian and Serbian Carpathians. Regions with the highest aggregate climate exposure (i.e. above 70 % of the regional range) were mostly covered by broadleaved forests (39 %), agricultural land (30 %), and pastures and woodlands (15 %). These regions also contained 15 % of protected areas and 36 % of the total human population in the Carpathians. While growing season length was the main factor affecting hot-spot magnitude in the north-west, precipitation-related variables were the main factors in the east and south. Analysis of inter-climate model variability indicated that the level of confidence in hot-spot position and magnitude differed among hot-spots. In addition to identifying a large-scale regional pattern of climate change, we showed that there are sub-regions with remarkably high climate exposure. The hot-spot distribution in lower elevations suggests that Carpathian ecosystems in water-limited environment may be particularly exposed to climate change.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the projects ITMS 26220120069 (30 %) and ITMS 26220220066 (30 %) supported by the Operational Programme Research and Development funded by the European Regional Development Fund; projects of the Slovak Research and Development Agency under contracts APVV–0111–10 (15 %) and APVV–0243–11 (15 %); and project of the National Agency for Agriculture Research of the Czech Republic No. QJ1220316 (5 %). The research was also supported by the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA K104816) (5 %).

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Correspondence to Tomáš Hlásny.

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Hlásny, T., Trombik, J., Dobor, L. et al. Future climate of the Carpathians: climate change hot-spots and implications for ecosystems. Reg Environ Change 16, 1495–1506 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-015-0890-2

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Keywords

  • Climate exposure
  • Central and south-eastern Europe
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Drought
  • Biodiversity