Climate Changes Creating Green And Flowering Mountains


“The changes are so rapid that plants like 

fireweed (rose bay) and rowan have even taken 

root in the gravel upon melting glaciers. Even 

wood anemones are appearing higher up the 

mountain,” says Leif Kullman.


“More and more plants are migrating to the high 

mountains since the warmer climate is conducive 

to them, including contorta pine and cembra pine, 

which are not native to Scandinavia.”




Climate Changes Creating Green And Flowering Mountains


ScienceDaily (May 16, 2008) – Our mountains are 

growing greener. At the border between woods and 

bare mountain, trees that require warm 

temperatures, such as oak, elm, maple, and black 

alder, have become established for the first time 

in 8,000 years. This is shown in current studies 

led by Leif Kullman, professor of physical 

geography at Umeå University in Sweden.


Over the last century, the temperature has risen 

by more than one degree. The cooling trend over 

several thousand years is broken, and this has 

triggered changes in flora, fauna, and 

landscapes. In important respects, the present 

state is similar to what occurred directly after 

the latest ice age.


“Most noticeable, alongside the melting of 

glaciers, is an elevating of the timberline by 

200 meters. Bare alpine areas are shrinking, and 

typical Nordic mountain birch forests are losing 

ground to spruce and pine, which are more 

competitive in a warmer and drier climate,” says 

Leif Kullman.


The alpine landscape is becoming generally 

greener and more inviting. Many mountain plants 

have produced profuse blossoms as well as 

prodigious amounts of seeds and fruits in the 

last few years.


Plants that were previously limited to the 

borderline between woods and bare mountain are 

now rapidly climbing alpine slopes.


“The changes are so rapid that plants like 

fireweed (rose bay) and rowan have even taken 

root in the gravel up on melting glaciers. Even 

wood anemones are appearing higher up the 

mountain,” says Leif Kullman.


The alpine flora and biodiversity are thus 

burgeoning dramatically. More and more plants are 

migrating to the high mountains since the warmer 

climate is conducive to them, including contorta 

pine and cembra pine, which are not native to 



The distribution of the mountain landscape’s 

various plant communities is in flux. Certain 

plants, such as mosses and low-growing herbs, are 

adapted to a short growing period after the snow 

melts. As the snow thaws earlier and earlier, 

these plants have been replaced by brush and 

grass heaths, which has lent the mountain slopes 

a steppe-like appearance. Mountain fens are 

drying up, which means that sedge and grass 

vegetation is growing denser, new species are 

migrating in, and in some places glorious alpine 

meadows are appearing. At the highest elevations, 

formerly the domain of sterile gravel and 

boulders, fens are occurring.


Changes in flora impact the conditions for the 

mountain fauna. Leif Kullman has observed new 

bird and butterfly species, such as wrens and 

admirals, at ever higher elevations.


The knowledge generated by the current monitoring 

system is a precondition for models that describe 

the development of a possibly warmer future.


“The alpine world is evincing truly major changes 

despite the modest increase in temperature. 

Present prognoses of a temperature increase of 

three degrees by 2100 will entail considerably 

more sweeping changes. We can expect fewer bare 

mountain areas, even more lush vegetation, and a 

richer flora,” says Leif Kullman.


The studies were carried out primarily in 

Sweden’s southern mountain regions in the 

provinces of Jämtland, Härjedalen, and Dalarna. 

Data from more than 200 sites have been recorded 

at various times since 1915. There is no other 

series of this scope in the world.


Adapted from materials provided by Umeå University, via AlphaGalileo.


Umeå University (2008, May 16). Climate Changes 

Creating Green And Flowering Mountains. 

ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 16, 2008, from 




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