Research

The aim of MIREN is to understand the effects of global change on species’ distributions and biodiversity in mountainous areas. We have expanded our initial focus on non-native plant invasions to consider more generally species (re)distribution under different drivers of global change, including biological invasions, climate change and land-use change. We perform globally replicated observational and experimental studies along elevation gradients to understand the processes that are shaping mountain plant communities at regional to global scales. Check out the “Publication”-page for our latest results.

Observational approaches:

Surveys and monitoring

The MIREN research is built on a core of global long-term monitoring of vascular plant species along elevation gradients, established in 2005 and continuing to expand to new mountain regions around the world. These core screening surveys are augmented with add-on projects (see below).

Core surveys

  • MIREN road survey

The MIREN road survey was established in 2006 to document the distribution of non-native species in mountains and test hypotheses about the drivers of these patterns. The survey is currently implemented in over 20 mountain regions on all continents except Antarctica. Through repeated resampling, and expansion of the protocol to include native species, we have established this survey as a long-term monitoring of changes in mountain vegetation. The protocol adopts a “targeted transect” approach, with transects stratified on mountain roads and by elevation, including plots located at roadsides and in adjacent semi-natural vegetation. This design allows us to answer several questions on the effects of climate (change) and anthropogenic influence on the distribution of native and non-native plant species, and assess changes in species distributions in mountain ecosystems.

The survey is repeated every five years.

If you are interested to participate or find out more, contact miren.contact@gmail.com.

  • MIREN trail survey

In 2016, we launched a second survey along mountain trails, to be implemented in mountain regions with a sparse road network at high elevations. This survey is currently implemented in 9 regions. By applying a standardized design as in the road survey, this survey allows us to compare the different effects of trails and roads on mountain vegetation. With this project, our main focus lies on the effect of (anthropogenically induced) changes in dispersal on plant species dynamics in mountains.

For people with insufficient time to maintain the long-term monitoring plots, we have a rapid trail survey that aims to globally monitor some key invasive species along mountain trails.

If you are interested to participate or find out more, click here or contact miren.trails@gmail.com.

Add-on projects

These core surveys are augmented with several add-on projects that are performed in a selection of regions, and aim to answer more detailed questions about plant species (re)distributions in mountains. Some of the currently studies include:

  • Plant trait variation along elevation gradients (contact sylvia.haider[at]botanik.uni-halle.de)
  • SoilTemp: towards a global map and database of soil temperatures and climate (contact jonas.lembrechts[at]uantwerpen.be)
  • Above- and belowground biotic interactions (contact jonas.lembrechts[at]uantwerpen.be)

Plant species data

The MIREN survey data (georeferenced species occurrence data) is made available through GBIF with a memorandum that ends latest before the next survey. If you have project ideas for which you would like the most recent data, or the more detailed site metadata, please contact miren.contact@gmail.com.

Foto de experimento

Standardized comparative experiments:

We also conduct standardized experiments designed to disentangle the role of the observed drivers of plant distribution changes. Removal, reciprocal transplant and common garden experiments are set up in the same way in several regions. Both disturbed and natural habitats along the elevation gradients are used, manipulating locally characteristic non-native species and non-native species that are shared among regions. The results close important gaps in our knowledge on the mechanisms of plant invasions in heterogeneous environments.

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