Alpine invasions

When plants from the cosy environment of western Europe arrive in the high north, you would expect they are not used to the cold environment over there. Some of them however seem to do pretty well in the Swedish mountains, unlike what could be expected based on the climatic conditions in these harsh environments.

Dryas octopetala in the mountains

We want to know the limitations of these species, explore their powers on these absolute limits and see how high they can get. And even more important: we want to know the factors that might block or promote their expansion. These results will be a great help in the predictions of future changes in plant distributions and the effects on the typical mountain vegetation.

Alpine vegetation in Sweden

So we decided to climb all the way up to 1000 meters in the mountains in the high north (more pictures here) to put our tiny, vulnerable plant seeds in the ground. We could derive their performance up to 900 meters already from last years experiments, but their limitations might even lie higher. So we crossed some large snowfields and hiked our way up to see if the plants would be able to follow.

Climbing the highest mountains

It is important to realize that the elevational limitations of the invaders will strongly depend on location and circumstances. They might be limited to a unique combination of environmental factors, but use those locations to expand their ranges to higher elevations. Even we felt the differences in circumstances over only a hike of a few kilometers: areas with or without wind, patches that accumulate snow or drain all the melting water or cliffs to steep for plants to grow.

Plots at 1000 meters

We make use of this natural variation in the mountains to get a detailed view of the possibilities of the invaders and predict their future.

Plots at 1000 meters

The current sequence of warm days at the beginning of the Arctic summer can be used for the installation of the experiments. At the end of august and after the long and harsh winter, we will come back to count the survivors.

The midnight sun

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