Strong upslope shifts in Chimborazo's vegetation over two centuries since Humboldt.


Global climate change is driving species poleward and upward in high-latitude regions, but the extent to which the biodiverse tropics are similarly affected is poorly known due to a scarcity of historical records. In 1802, Alexander von Humboldt ascended the Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador. He recorded the distribution of plant species and vegetation zones along its slopes and in surrounding parts of the Andes. We revisited Chimborazo in 2012, precisely 210 y after Humboldt's expedition. We documented upward shifts in the distribution of vegetation zones as well as increases in maximum elevation limits of individual plant taxa of >500 m on average. These range shifts are consistent with increased temperatures and glacier retreat on Chimborazo since Humboldt's study. Our findings provide evidence that global warming is strongly reshaping tropical plant distributions, consistent with Humboldt's proposal that climate is the primary control on the altitudinal distribution of vegetation.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1509938112

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@article{MoruetaHolme2015StrongUS, title={Strong upslope shifts in Chimborazo's vegetation over two centuries since Humboldt.}, author={Naia Morueta-Holme and Kristine Engemann and Pablo Sandoval-Acu{\~n}a and Jeremy D Jonas and R Max Segnitz and Jens-Christian Svenning}, journal={Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America}, year={2015}, volume={112 41}, pages={12741-5} }