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In a study published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Environment Institute analysed how projected changes in temperature and snow cover duration will affect the risk for extinction in northern flora. The results show that many plant species can benefit from a warmer climate, but the rapidly receding snow cover may irradicate a large part of the flora typical to northern mountains. Many of these species are already endangered, which makes their conservation an urgent challenge.
"Though the significance of snow is widely recognised, winter conditions are often ignored when studying the northern and mountainous areas," says Doctoral Student Pekka Niittynen from the University of Helsinki.
Data - Winter - Sensing - Satellite - Imaging
Gathering data in the winter used to be very difficult but remote sensing and satellite imaging have enabled detailed monitoring of the snow cover since the 1980s.
With the help of remote sensing and species distribution models, we showed that winter has an enormous significance for northern nature and the future of its organisms, says Niittynen.
Arctic - Mountain - Plants - Summer - Cover
Many Arctic and mountain plants are specialised to grow and flower during very short summer. If snow cover duration shortens and summers lengthen, more southern species benefit and can compete the Arctic species to extinction.
According to the researchers, the climate of northern areas is changing more rapidly than in the rest of the world, and these changes are especially forceful during winter. This makes the current results all the more significant.
Snow - Climate
"We are worried that we don't know exactly how the snow will change as the climate warms up. We can...
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