According to scientists at Yale University, Connecticut, in collaboration with the Climate Desk, temperature changes in global warming generate large-scale plant migrations. As a consequence of these migrations, sudden changes in ecosystems can occur, ranging from the creation of new ones to the destruction of those already established. In this regard, they added, some forests have spread to mountains where previously there was no such diversity in flora, especially on the European continent.
The Paleocene-Ecocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) was a historical process characterized by recording the most significant global warming. According to experts, this happened 20 thousand years ago, when the earth’s temperature suddenly increased 6 degrees Celsius (° C) due to high emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). Although there is little data on the plants that colonized the regions before this natural global warming, there are fossil remains that indicate their presence and lifetime.
Thanks to the observation of different fossils, researchers from this university were able to determine that plants have a long history of migration towards climates favorable for their development. According to a study published in the journal Nature, massive migrations of flora have been observed in 302 mountains throughout Europe, and the data coincide with a significant increase in the planet’s temperature. The research reported that cycles with more heat than usual generate a migration of plants mostly resistant to atmospheric and soil conditions, such as pine trees.
An aspect highlighted by the researchers of both studies is that the migrations of plants in the middle of global warming can generate extreme climatic changes in ecosystems. Likewise, given the knowledge about CO2 filtration carried out by plants, the possible concentration of greater diversity in certain regions could put this factor at risk. In this sense, they added that ecosystem changes are still unpredictable, and the adaptability of plants to new atmospheric and soil conditions does not guarantee their survival if emissions are not reduced.
Ellen Currano, specialist in paleontology and botany from the University of Wyoming, United States, reported for the non-governmental organization (NGO) Grist, the presence of flora that survived the PETM indicates the resilience of various plant species to high emissions carbon dioxide and temperature rise. To achieve this goal, it is necessary both to better study plant migration and to limit CO2 emissions to the levels established in the Paris Agreement, she added. Therefore, the massive migrations of fauna on the planet are an opportunity to study global warming and take new response measures.