Biodiv Sci ›› 2009, Vol. 17 ›› Issue (1): 88-96.  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2009.08197

• Research Brief • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Responses of alpine biodiversity to climate change

Yang Liu, Jian Zhang*(), Wanqin Yang   

  1. Faculty of Forestry and Horticulture of Sichuan Agricultural University, Key Laboratory of Forestry Ecological Engineering of Sichuan Province, Ya’an 625014
  • Received:2008-08-18 Accepted:2008-12-15 Online:2009-01-20 Published:2009-01-20
  • Contact: Jian Zhang


The alpine belt is the temperature-driven treeless region between the timberline and the snowline. Alpine belts are ideal sites for monitoring climate change because species in mountain habitats are especially sensitive to climate change. Global warming is shifting the distribution of alpine biodiversity and is leading to glacial retreat, implying that alterations in alpine biodiversity are indicators of climate change. Therefore, more attention has been given to changes in species composition and ecosystem structure, species distribution patterns and suitable habitats, timberline ecotone shifts, and interspecific relationships. In particular, the combined effects of climate change and human disturbance have increased uncertainty in predicting changes to alpine biodiversity in the context of the future climate change. At the same time, climate change effects on alpine biodiversity will likely be more important relative to other natural and social factors in the long term. We suggest that key research fields will include alpine biodiversity responses to extreme climate change, relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem processes, the interaction between above- and below-ground biodiversity in the context of climate change, and the combined effects of climate change and human disturbance on alpine biodiversity patterns.

Key words: global warming, alpine zone, species distribution pattern, ecosystem process, human disturbance