Globally accelerating trends in societal development and human environmental impacts since the mid-twentieth century1,2,3,4,5,6,7 are known as the Great Acceleration and have been discussed as a key indicator of the onset of the Anthropocene epoch6. While reports on ecological responses (for example, changes in species range or local extinctions) to the Great Acceleration are multiplying8, 9, it is unknown whether such biotic responses are undergoing a similar acceleration over time. This knowledge gap stems from the limited availability of time series data on biodiversity changes across large temporal and geographical extents. Here we use a dataset of repeated plant surveys from 302 mountain summits across Europe, spanning 145 years of observation, to assess the temporal trajectory of mountain biodiversity changes as a globally coherent imprint of the Anthropocene. We find a continent-wide acceleration in the rate of increase in plant species richness, with five times as much species enrichment between 2007 and 2016 as fifty years ago, between 1957 and 1966. This acceleration is strikingly synchronized with accelerated global warming and is not linked to alternative global change drivers. The accelerating increases in species richness on mountain summits across this broad spatial extent demonstrate that acceleration in climate-induced biotic change is occurring even in remote places on Earth, with potentially far-ranging consequences not only for biodiversity, but also for ecosystem functioning and services.
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We thank D. Barolin, J. Birks, A. Björken, C. Björken, S. Dahle, U. Deppe, G. Dussassois, J. V. Ferrández, T. Gassner, S. Giovanettina, F. Giuntoli, Ø. Lunde Heggebø, K. Herz, A. Jost, K. Kallnik, W. Kapfer, T. Kronstad, H. Laukeland, S. Nießner, M. Olson, P. Roux-Fouillet, K. Schofield, M. Suen, D. Watson, J. Wells Abbott, J. Zaremba and numerous additional helpers for fieldwork support; P. Barancˇ ok, J. L. Benito Alonso, M. Camenisch, G. Coldea, J. Dick, M. Gottfried, G. Grabherr, J. I. Holten, J. Kollár, P. Larsson, M. Mallaun, O. Michelsen, U. Molau, M. Pus¸ cas¸ , T. Scheurer, P. Unterluggauer, L. Villar, G.-R. Walther, and numerous helpers for data originating from the GLORIA network13; C. Jenks for linguistic support; and the following institutions for funding. M.J.S.: Danish Carlsbergfondet (CF14-0148), EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie action (grant 707491). C.R., V.S., S.W.: Velux Foundation, Switzerland. C.R., V.S., S.W., J.-P.T., P.V.: Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). A.K.: Swiss National Science Foundation (31003A_144011 to C.R.), Basler Stiftung für biologische Forschung, Switzerland. J.K.: Fram Centre, Norway (362202). J.K., J.-A.G., P.C., B.J.: Polish-Norwegian Research Programme of the Norwegian National Centre for Research and Development (Pol-Nor/196829/87/2013). O.F.-A., M.J.H., S.P.: Instituto de Estudios Altoaragoneses (Huesca, Spain). S.D.: Austrian Climate Research Programme (ACRP, project 368575: DISEQU-ALP). F.J.: Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland; Alpine Garden Society, UK. M.J.H.: Felix de Azara research grant (IBERSUMIT project, DPH, Spain). R.K.: Slovak Research and Development Agency (APVV 0866-12). S.N., D.G.: VILLUM Foundation’s Young Investigator Programme (VKR023456; Denmark). S.P.: Ramón y Cajal fellowship (RYC-2013-14164, Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Spain). J.-C.S.: European Research Council (ERC-2012-StG-310886-HISTFUNC); VILLUM Investigator project (VILLUM FONDEN grant 16549; Denmark). S.W.: WSL internal grant (201307N0678, Switzerland); EU FP7 Interact Transnational Access (AlpFlor Europe). S.W., S.B., F.J., M.J.H.: Swiss Botanical Society Alpine Flower Fund. Time and effort was supported by sDiv, the Synthesis Centre of iDiv, Germany (DFG FZT 118, sUMMITDiv working group).
Nature thanks J. Alexander, A. Hester and K. Verheyen for their contribution to the peer review of this work.