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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Think globally, measure locally: The MIREN standardized protocol for monitoring plant species distributions along elevation gradients

Haider, Sylvia; Lembrechts, Jonas J.; McDougall, Keith; Pauchard, Anibal; Alexander, Jake M.; Barros, Agustina; Cavieres, Lohengrin A.; Rashid, Irfan; Rew, Lisa J.; Aleksanyan, Alla; Arevalo, Jose R.; Aschero, Valeria; Chisholm, Chelsea; Clark, V. Ralph; Clavel, Jan; Daehler, Curtis; Dar, Pervaiz A.; Dietz, Hansjorg; Dimarco, Romina D.; Edwards, Peter;
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Climate change and other global change drivers threaten plant diversity in mountains worldwide. A widely documented response to such environmental modifications is for plant species to change their elevational ranges. Range shifts are often idiosyncratic and difficult to generalize, partly due to variation in sampling methods. There is thus a need for a standardized monitoring strategy that can be applied across mountain regions to assess distribution changes and community turnover of native and non-native plant species over space and time. Here, we present a conceptually intuitive and standardized protocol developed by the Mountain Invasion Research Network (MIREN) to systematically quantify global patterns of native and non-native species distributions along elevation gradients and shifts arising from interactive effects of climate change and human disturbance. Usually repeated every five years, surveys consist of 20 sample sites located at equal elevation increments along three replicate roads per sampling region. At each site, three plots extend from the side of a mountain road into surrounding natural vegetation. The protocol has been successfully used in 18 regions worldwide from 2007 to present. Analyses of one point in time already generated some salient results, and revealed region-specific elevational patterns of native plant species richness, but a globally consistent elevational decline in non-native species richness. Non-native plants were also more abundant directly adjacent to road edges, suggesting that disturbed roadsides serve as a vector for invasions into mountains. From the upcoming analyses of time series, even more exciting results can be expected, especially about range shifts. Implementing the protocol in more mountain regions globally would help to generate a more complete picture of how global change alters species distributions. This would inform conservation policy in mountain ecosystems, where some conservation policies remain poorly implemented.


climate change; invasive species; long-term ecological monitoring; MIREN; mountain biodiversity; Mountain Invasion Research Network; range dynamics; range expansions

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2022, Volume: 12, number: 2, article number: e8590
Publisher: WILEY

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG13 Climate action
    SDG15 Life on land

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