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Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA)

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High mountain regions host a remarkable number of endemic species which only grow on the summits. Low temperature conditions cause orographic isolations providing unique habitats/environments for highly specialized, cold-adapted species. This makes the alpine life zone one of the most fragile ecosystems which are highly endangered by the rapid climate warming – already today.

The Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments – GLORIA established a long-term biodiversity observation system. It operates as world-wide network with permanent plot sites in alpine environments. The researchers of GLORIA are collecting data to indicate the trends in species diversity, composition, abundance, and temperature, and to assess and predict losses in biodiversity in these fragile alpine ecosystems which are under accelerating climate change pressures.

First results have shown that many specialized and endemic plant species, which only grow on the summits, are already threatened with extinction. Climate-induced upward shifts of plant species from lower elevations can already be observed. The increased number of plants in higher mountain habitats forces competition on the cold-adapted, highly specialized and often slow growing species. These population dynamics may be a long-term process. The long-lived endemic alpine plants preserve in warmer habitats for a certain time and therefore currently the total number of specie increases on mountain summits. However, towards the end of the twenty-first century the competition and temperature conditions will become unsuitable for many species, creating a so-called extinction debt, and will cause serious biodiversity loss in mountain regions.

Project information


Center for Global Change and Sustainability, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences and Austrian Academy of Sciences


Although GLORIA represents a globally operating site-based network and programme, regional chapters emerged in the course of its implementation. They focus on the particular requirements of integration into related regional research and monitoring activities. The largest regional networks comprise the tropical Andes, the mountains of western North America, or the mountain s of Europe. Notwithstanding all GLORIA sites share a common protocol on the global scale.

GLORIA-Andes http://redgloria.condesan.org/

CIRMOUNT https://www.fs.fed.us/psw/cirmount/gloria/index.shtml

Source of funding

different sources of funding including the European Union (recent funding: Austrian Academy of Science)

Reference information


Published in Climate-ADAPT Mar 27 2019   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Dec 12 2023

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