Global warming : what effects on mountain ecosystems ?

Published on November 9, 2016 – Author : Coline Mionnet

Global warming : what effects on mountain ecosystems ?

French Alpine Ecology laboratory (LECA), in Grenoble, initiated at the end of september an interestingt experiment with the aim of observing the reactions of Alpine ecosystems in the face of the stress caused by a brutal climatic warming of 3°C.
Supported by the logistics of the Alpine Station Joseph Fourier and with the support of the commune of Monêtier-les-Bains (Hautes Alpes) the researchers cut out alpine lawn slabs with a substrate about fifteen centimeters thick.

LECA alpine lawn slabs

The great means

40 square meters of ground were thus carried with an helicopter from the slopes of the Galibier at 2500 meters of altitude towards their new implantation 600 meters lower and an identical specimen was then raised in place of the first one.
This permutation of ecosystems will allow over a period of ten years to study symmetrically the effects of great amplitudes climatic disturbances on plants, insects and microorganisms occupying these ecological niches.

alpages montagne alpes

Climatic upheaval

This difference of 3°C corresponds to one of the worst scenarios of temperature elevation envisaged as consequence of emissions of greenhouse effects gases. In mountain areas this would mean that the vegetation layers would suffer a slide in altitude, the softwoods invading the alpine pastures with all the consequences that would ensue for tourism and pastoralism. In the plains the geoclimatic limits of the crops would move several hundred kilometers to the north.
This climatic evolution would probably be catastrophic for the southern regions of France where the natural equilibriums would be seriously impacted. Agriculture and tourism could then face major difficulties in these regions where the effects of global warming are already felt.


“Des alpages volants”, sur le site LECA (french)

Future Climate Changes, Risks and Impacts, IPCC website