Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 28, Issue 13, pp 3575–3596 | Cite as

Could plant diversity metrics explain climate-driven vegetation changes on mountain summits of the GLORIA network?

  • Francesco PorroEmail author
  • Marcello Tomaselli
  • Thomas Abeli
  • Maurizia Gandini
  • Matteo Gualmini
  • Simone Orsenigo
  • Alessandro Petraglia
  • Graziano Rossi
  • Michele Carbognani
Original Paper


High-elevation habitats host a large number of plant species and are characterized by high biodiversity. The vegetation dynamics in these cold adapted ecosystems are difficult to predict, being affected by global warming, especially in the last decades. With the aim to promote a better understanding of climate-driven changes of alpine vegetation, we investigated the variation in species richness, α-diversity, β-diversity, and total cover of plant functional types over a time lapse of 15 years, relying on multiple re-surveys of mountain summit vegetation in 2001, 2008 and 2015. The study area, included in the long term global observation network GLORIA, was at the boundary between temperate and Mediterranean mountains of S-Europe (northern Apennines, Italy). We identified a trend of loss in biodiversity and signals of biotic homogenization using multiple diversity metrics, despite the overall species richness increment observed in the study area. Cold-adapted and rare species declined while dominant species like graminoids and shrubs increased. Our results highlight that long-term vegetation monitoring activities paired with multiple measures of diversity are required to properly assess biodiversity and to obtain useful indications for future conservation activities in alpine environments. The methods here presented could be applied in all GLORIA sites to quantify biodiversity changes over time, obtaining comparable results for biodiversity monitoring in high-elevation habitats from all over the world.


GLORIA Biodiversity loss Vegetation dynamics Biotic homogenization Plant functional types Hill numbers 



The Grant of Excellence Departments, MIUR-Italy (ARTICOLO 1, COMMI 314—337 LEGGE 232/2016) is gratefully acknowledged for the support to one of the authors (Prof. Thomas Abeli). We also sincerely thank Anna Maria Cristina Antoniotti for her precious help during the fieldwork campaigns and two anonymous reviewers for critically reading the manuscript and for providing useful suggestions that helped to improve and clarify it.

Supplementary material

10531_2019_1837_MOESM1_ESM.docx (129 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 129 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry, Life Sciences and Environmental SustainabilityUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly
  3. 3.Department of ScienceUniversity of Roma TreRomeItaly

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