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Four Decades of Species Range Change of Sinai's High-Mountain Flora

Paper Reviewed
Coals, P., Shmida, A., Vasl, A., Duguny, N.M. and Gilbert, F. 2018. Elevation patterns of plant diversity and recent altitudinal range shifts in Sinai's high-mountain flora. Journal of Vegetation Science 29: 255-264.

In explaining the reasoning behind their study, Coals et al. (2018) cite the oft-repeated climate-alarmist claim that "mountain species are especially vulnerable to extinction due to habitat loss induced by climate change, because shifting climatic zones will reduce suitable habitat area, leading to 'mountain-top extinctions'."

Noting that "there are very few studies of recent altitudinal changes in plant distributions from subtropical or arid regions," the team of five researchers thus set out to test this species extinction hypothesis by analyzing changes in floral ranges on the hyper-arid desert mountain region of South Sinai, Egypt over the past four decades (1974-2014). During this time, precipitation in Egypt showed "little evidence of significant changes in average values," while mean annual temperatures increased at a rate of 0.62°C (between 1971-2000), which decadal trend "greatly exceeds the global trend of 0.17°C per decade." Consequently, this area provided a suitable location for testing the impacts of global warming on mountain-top species' movements and their propensity to experience extinction as temperatures rise.

The specifics of the analysis involved a comparison of flora range boundary locations (both upper and lower) recorded in the mid-1970s on South Sinai against data obtained from a new survey conducted in 2014. Coals et al. were able to estimate altitudinal range changes for 63 species at their upper-limit boundary; but due to data limitations inherent in the mid-1970s survey they could only determine range shifts at the lower-elevation boundary limit for 22 species.

In describing their findings the scientists report there were "significant overall up-slope shifts in mean upper altitudinal limits and significant overall down-slope shifts in mean lower altitudinal limits." Consequently, the data showed that "a majority of assessed species expanded their altitudinal ranges, [albeit] the responses of individual species varied."

The results of this study run counter to the species extinction hypothesis, presenting data that are opposite of what climate alarmists claim should be happening. Instead of hypothesized range contractions and species extinctions, none of the species examined went extinct and the majority expanded their ranges in response to increasing temperatures in this region over the past four decades.

Posted 11 March 2019