Alpine plants face ‘bleak future’ in adapting to warmer climate

A photograph of snow daisies in Kosciuszko National Park, with a view of the mountains behind on a clear, sunny day.
29 May 2021

Native alpine plants in Kosciuszko National Park are not keeping pace with rapid changes in the environment, according to a study by a PhD research scholar at the Australian National University.

The study, funded by a grant from the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects, honed in on herbarium (preserved) specimens from 21 native alpine plant species, making more than 1500 measurements of plant size, leaf thickness, mass and shape from the past 126 years.

Only two of the 21 species showed significant changes in any of the measured traits.

Lead author Meena Sritharan said her study, published in Ecology and Evolution, found that 20 species were not responding to warming conditions.

“We predicted leaves would become thicker as this would be advantageous if plants were facing longer growing seasons and increasing temperatures,” she said.

“Our findings suggest native alpine plants may not be adapting to the substantial local climate change occurring in Australian alpine regions.”

Read the full article on the RiotACT website, featuring PhD scholar Meena Sritharan