Evidence of thermophilisation and elevation-dependent warming during the Last Interglacial in the Italian Alps
AuthorJohnston, VE; Borsato, A; Frisia, S; Spoetl, C; Dublyansky, Y; Toechterle, P; Hellstrom, JC; Bajo, P; Edwards, RL; Cheng, H
Source TitleScientific Reports
PublisherNATURE PUBLISHING GROUP
University of Melbourne Author/sHellstrom, John
AffiliationSchool of Earth Sciences
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsJohnston, V. E., Borsato, A., Frisia, S., Spoetl, C., Dublyansky, Y., Toechterle, P., Hellstrom, J. C., Bajo, P., Edwards, R. L. & Cheng, H. (2018). Evidence of thermophilisation and elevation-dependent warming during the Last Interglacial in the Italian Alps. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 8 (1), https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-21027-3.
Access StatusOpen Access
ARC Grant codeARC/FT130100801
Thermophilisation is the response of plants communities in mountainous areas to increasing temperatures, causing an upward migration of warm-adapted (thermophilic) species and consequently, the timberline. This greening, associated with warming, causes enhanced evapotranspiration that leads to intensification of the hydrological cycle, which is recorded by hydroclimate-sensitive archives, such as stalagmites and flowstones formed in caves. Understanding how hydroclimate manifests at high altitudes is important for predicting future water resources of many regions of Europe that rely on glaciers and snow accumulation. Using proxy data from three coeval speleothems (stalagmites and flowstone) from the Italian Alps, we reconstructed both the ecosystem and hydrological setting during the Last Interglacial (LIG); a warm period that may provide an analogue to a near-future climate scenario. Our speleothem proxy data, including calcite fabrics and the stable isotopes of calcite and fluid inclusions, indicate a +4.3 ± 1.6 °C temperature anomaly at ~2000 m a.s.l. for the peak LIG, with respect to present-day values (1961-1990). This anomaly is significantly higher than any low-altitude reconstructions for the LIG in Europe, implying elevation-dependent warming during the LIG. The enhanced warming at high altitudes must be accounted for when considering future climate adaption strategies in sensitive mountainous regions.
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