swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

Your Gateway to Switzerland

Flora and fauna

Climate change has influenced both the distribution and the behaviour of flora and fauna.

A rise in temperature of one degree centigrade pushes the tree line up by 100 meters (330 feet). As different types of vegetation move up, some of the specialist high-mountain flora and fauna will become extinct. Habitats will change, and some species will have nowhere to go.

There are now more plant species to be found on some alpine peaks than there were 50-100 years ago; however some species have died out and more will do so as vegetation that used to be confined to lower areas moves upwards.

Fauna especially under threat include the ptarmigan and the mountain hare. The problem is not simply that their habitat shrinks, but also that the populations become isolated from each other, which has an impact on their breeding ability.

The rapidity of climate change is an additional danger. Forests take a long time to regenerate and may not be able to respond quickly enough. Some species, such as flightless insects, may not be able to climb fast enough to follow their retreating habitats.

Species are moving not only upwards but also northwards.

In the long run, many ecosystems may undergo drastic change. Some species will expand their habitats at the expense of others. Migratory birds are likely to be displaced by a population explosion in resident birds. Migratory birds are also under threat as climate change destroys some of their staging posts, with the result that they cannot find enough food for their long journeys.