Glacier recession has led to an upward migration of Alpine plants at a rate of 0.5 - 4 m per decade. In the long run, lowland plants will displace Alpine species to ever-higher altitudes until they simply have nowhere to go at all, effectively forcing them into extinction.
The expansion of exotic species from parks and gardens is another potential threat posed by climate change and can already be observed in the Southern Alps where evergreen trees (even palm trees!) are invading the natural forests.
The species composition of plant communities could change with consequences as yet unknown for the whole food chain.
The invasion of southern pathogens, bringing diseases against which the flora and fauna of the Alps have no defence, could also be a consequence of global warming.
Global warming will also bring about changes in rain and snowfall patterns and an increase in the frequency of extreme meteorological events, such as floods and avalanches.
Higher temperatures will degrade the permafrost layers, causing slope instability and rock falls and landslides.
What We Do
The Pasterze Glacier lies in the Hohe Tauern mountain range of the Alps, along the northeastern slope of Austria's tallest mountain, Grossglockner, and flows into the Moell River. The 9 km-long Pasterze is currently losing 5 m in height and 20 m in length every year. The retreat of Pasterze is monitored by satellite and is used in many models to estimate the loss of mountain glaciers around the world.
© Infographic for the Alpine ecoregion. The Alps have warmed by 1.5 degrees celcius in the last century. © WWF European Alpine Programme
The Alps have warmed by 1.5 degrees celcius in the last century.