We know that temperatures are increasing around the planet, and that this temperature increase is not uniform – areas at higher latitudes are experiencing a faster warming than areas closer to the equator. We also know that our own alpine environments are being affected by more erratic snow seasons, greater drought and longer fire seasons, and that this is affecting both plant and animal communities. This warming is more apparent at higher elevations.
Australia’s higher mountain ranges are relatively low and located at moderate latitudes. Our alpine zones are often quite isolated from each other, which increases the risk of localised species or community loss if a devastating fire impacts any particular area. We know that the snow line is rising and snowpack is in decline. As the snowline gets higher, warmer conditions will allow species to colonise higher up the mountain zones, potentially meaning that, over time, true alpine vegetation communities are ‘pushed’ off the top of mountains. For instance, recent research conducted by Brodie Verrall and Catherine Pickering from Griffith University found that subalpine grasslands will be impacted by ‘warmer and drier conditions becoming more common and repeat fires in some areas’, (resulting in changes to) ‘the distribution and composition of this and other communities in the Australian Alps’.