As the climate warms, plants and animals will spread to colder regions - nortwards and upwards in the mountains. But what happens to the alpine species that already exist here when they get new neighbors? RangeX will investigate how mountain plants are affected by the new neighbors they can expect to encounter under a warmer climate. We will do experiments where we move plants from lower areas up into the mountains, and look at how mountain plants are affected. We will also study the mechanisms behind these effects - is it the new neighbors themselves that are most important, or do the effects operate through other organisms such as pollinating insects or soil organisms? And what effects will the new neighbors have? Will we see changes in biodiversity, carbon storage, or perhaps pollination services?
RangeX officially started in April 2021. We have employed a postdoc who is responsible for the Norwegian part of the project. This summer we have set up 2 locations, installed small greenhouses ('open top chambers' - OTCs) which will simulate a warmer climate and transplanted plants from the lowland to the alpine. Now we will monitor how these lowland plants will affect the alpine plants, pollinators and soil organisms.
RangeX is an international collaborative project, where we will compare studies in Norway with studies in Switzerland, South Africa and Chile and globally. The goal is to find out what is different and what is similar between different geographical areas. This is how we can better understand the mechanisms and processes that govern mountain nature in the future.
This project is important because the mountain nature is unique, and because the mountains are important to us humans. In the mountains there are important global sources of water, food and livelihoods. But our mountains are also exposed to above-average warming, and increasing immigration by alien species. We will work together with local and global social actors and interests to ensure that our research is relevant and interesting to society.
RangeX seeks to better understand the processes and impacts of plants that are expanding their ranges following climate warming, and to use this knowledge to inform the development of policy regarding range-expanding plant species. We focus on mountain ecosystems as an ideal model system to address our research questions. Mountains are themselves of crucial conservation value, as hotspots of biodiversity, refugia for biota threatened by climate warming, and as key global sources of water, food, and livelihoods, but are experiencing above-average rates of warming and increasing pressures from invasive species and development, making mountains priority areas for sustainability research.