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Global Warming And The Onward March Of The Pine

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London - Apr 13, 2004
Climate change could dramatically increase the forest cover of the Earth's mountains, ecologists are predicting. Using data from the Austrian Alps, ecologists have developed a model that predicts the area covered by the local pine, Pinus mugo Turra, will increase from 10% today to 60% by the turn of the next millennium.

The findings are published in the April issue of the British Ecological Society's Journal of Ecology and the authors believe that this is the first paper to model tree line dynamics driven by climate change on a landscape scale in both time and space.

The Earth's climate has warmed approximately 0.6C over the past 100 years and the rate of warming looks set to accelerate. Alpine tree lines are assumed to be particularly sensitive to climate change, with high mountain forests predicted to shift their ranges up-slope at the expense of alpine vegetation.

According to one of the authors, Dr Stefan Dullinger of the University of Vienna, "Shrinkage and fragmentation of alpine habitats, as a consequence, may pose a serious threat to populations of many alpine plants, especially to regional endemics.

On the other hand, expansion of mountain forests may also improve certain ecosystem services for human welfare, such as erosion control and increased water holding capacity in many high mountain water catchments."

Dr Dullinger says that the findings will help the City of Vienna use pines to protect its drinking water catchment from erosion and pollution. However, he warns that the Viennese model is not easily transferable to other tree line systems.

"Tree lines may respond quite idiosyncratically to global warming. Our model highlights the complex interactions of temperature rise, species specific traits and resident alpine vegetation cover in driving a possible future tree line expansion," said Dullinger.

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Climate: Europe Tries Carbon Trading
Boulder - Apr 05, 2004
The nations of the European Union last week began to submit their plans for carbon trading to try to reach emissions limits set by the Kyoto agreement on global climate change -- even though the future of that agreement is much in doubt.