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Glacier Foreland Colonisation: Distinguishing between Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Climate Change

Rüdiger Kaufmann
Oecologia
Vol. 130, No. 3 (Feb., 2002), pp. 470-475
Published by: Springer in cooperation with International Association for Ecology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4223192
Page Count: 6
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Glacier Foreland Colonisation: Distinguishing between Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Climate Change
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Abstract

By comparing short-term (6 years) observations with long-term (>100 years) community changes reconstructed from the chronosequence along a glacier foreland, I show that the colonisation of recently deglaciated terrain by invertebrates may constitute a process reacting sensitively to temperature fluctuations. Early colonising stages (<30 years old) currently develop faster, and intermediate successional stages (30-50 years old) slower, than would be indicated by the long-term chronosequence pattern. These differences between the chronosequence approach and direct observation can be explained by a simple model relating the rate of community evolution to the temperature record. It would mean that an increase of 0.6°C in summer temperatures approximately doubled the speed of initial colonisation, whereas later successional stages were less sensitive to climate change. The present situation appears to result from unusually warm summers around 1950 and a warm period accelerating glacier retreat since 1980. In contrast to the long-term trend, all except the youngest communities have suffered a loss in diversity in recent years.

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