Climate impact studies have indicated ecological fingerprints of recent global warming across a wide range of habitats1,2. Although these studies have shown responses from various local case studies, a coherent large-scale account on temperaturedriven changes of biotic communities has been lacking3,4. Here we use 867 vegetation samples above the treeline from 60 summit sites in all major European mountain systems to show that ongoing climate change gradually transforms mountain plant communities. We provide evidence that the more coldadapted species decline and the more warm-adapted species increase, a process described here as thermophilization. At the scale of individual mountains this general trend may not be apparent, but at the larger, continental scale we observed a significantly higher abundance of thermophilic species in 2008, compared with 2001. Thermophilization of mountain plant communities mirrors the degree of recent warming and is more pronounced in areas where the temperature increase has been higher. In view of the projected climate change5,6 the observed transformation suggests a progressive decline of cold mountain habitats and their biota.
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