Persistence of arctic-alpine flora during 24,000 years of environmental change in the Polar Urals
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonScientific Reports. 2019, 9, 19613. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-55989-9
Plants adapted to extreme conditions can be at high risk from climate change; arctic-alpine plants, in particular, could “run out of space” as they are out-competed by expansion of woody vegetation. Mountain regions could potentially provide safe sites for arctic-alpine plants in a warmer climate, but empirical evidence is fragmentary. Here we present a 24,000-year record of species persistence based on sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) from Lake Bolshoye Shchuchye (Polar Urals). We provide robust evidence of long-term persistence of arctic-alpine plants through large-magnitude climate changes but document a decline in their diversity during a past expansion of woody vegetation. Nevertheless, most of the plants that were present during the last glacial interval, including all of the arctic-alpines, are still found in the region today. This underlines the conservation significance of mountain landscapes via their provision of a range of habitats that confer resilience to climate change, particularly for arctic-alpine taxa.