Rumpf Sabine

Range dynamics of mountain plants decrease with elevation

Project Number: CH-6358
Project Type: Research_Project
Project Duration: 01/29/2018 - ? project completed
Funding Source: other ,
Project Leader: Dr. Sabine Rumpf
Département d'Ecologie et d'Evolution
Université de Lausanne
Bâtiment de Biophore
AT-1015 Lausanne
Phone: ; +41 (0) 21 692 42 68
FAX: +41 (0) 21 692 42 65
e-Mail: sabine.rumpf(at)

related to this project.
for which the project has a relevance.


elevation, range dynamic, plants, mountain, climate change

Many studies report that mountain plant species are shifting upward in elevation. However, the majority of these reports focus on shifts of upper limits. Here, we expand the focus and simultaneously analyze changes of both range limits, optima, and abundances of 183 mountain plant species. We therefore resurveyed 1,576 vegetation plots first recorded before 1970 in the European Alps. We found that both range limits and optima shifted upward in elevation, but the most pronounced trend was a mean increase in species abundance. Despite huge species-specific variation, range dynamics showed a consistent trend along the elevational gradient: Both range limits and optima shifted upslope faster the lower they were situated historically, and species’ abundance increased more for species from lower elevations. Traits affecting the species’ dispersal and persistence capacity were not related to their range dynamics. Using indicator values to stratify species by their thermal and nutrient demands revealed that elevational ranges of thermophilic species tended to expand, while those of cold-adapted species tended to contract. Abundance increases were strongest for nutriphilous species. These results suggest that recent climate warming interacted with airborne nitrogen deposition in driving the observed dynamics. So far, the majority of species appear as “winners” of recent changes, yet “losers” are overrepresented among high-elevation, cold-adapted species with low nutrient demands. In the decades to come, high-alpine species may hence face the double pressure of climatic changes and novel, superior competitors that move up faster than they themselves can escape to even higher elevations.


Rumpf, S., K. Hülber, G. Klonner, D. Moser, M. Schütz, J. Wessely, W. Willner, N.E. Zimmermann & S. Dullinger 2018. Range dynamics of mountain plants decrease with elevation. PNAS 2018.

Rumpf, S., K. Hülber, N.E. Zimmermann & S. Dullinger 2017. Climate-driven range dynamics and potential current disequilibrium in Alpine vegetation. Conference Volume 6th Symposium for Research in Protected Areas. 2-3 November 2017: 559-560.

Last update: 5/11/18
Source of data: ProClim- Research InfoSystem (1993-2020)
Update the data of project: CH-6358

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