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Article

Surface Tradeoffs and Elevational Shifts at the Largest Italian Glacier: A Thirty-Years Time Series of Remotely-Sensed Images

1
Department of Botany, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
2
Faculty of Science and Technology, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, 39100 Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
3
Biodiversity & Macroecology Group, Department of Biological, Geological, and Environmental Sciences, University of Bologna, 40126 Bologna, Italy
4
Department of Spatial Sciences, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, 16521 Prague, Czech Republic
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2021, 13(1), 134; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13010134
Received: 28 November 2020 / Revised: 27 December 2020 / Accepted: 30 December 2020 / Published: 3 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Insights into Ecosystem Monitoring Using Geospatial Techniques)
Biodiversity loss occurring in mountain ecosystems calls for integrative approaches to improve monitoring processes in the face of human-induced changes. With a combination of vegetation and remotely-sensed time series data, we quantitatively identify the responses of land-cover types and their associated vegetation between 1987 and 2016. Fuzzy clustering of 11 Landsat images was used to identify main land-cover types. Vegetation belts corresponding to such land-cover types were identified by using species indicator analysis performed on 80 vegetation plots. A post-classification evaluation of trends, magnitude, and elevational shifts was done using fuzzy membership values as a proxy of the occupied surfaces by land-cover types. Our findings show that forests and scrublands expanded upward as much as the glacier retreated, i.e., by 24% and 23% since 1987, respectively. While lower alpine grassland shifted upward, the upper alpine grassland lost 10% of its originally occupied surface showing no elevational shift. Moreover, an increase of suitable sites for the expansion of the subnival vegetation belt has been observed, due to the increasing availability of new ice-free areas. The consistent findings suggest a general expansion of forest and scrubland to the detriment of alpine grasslands, which in turn are shifting upwards or declining in area. In conclusion, alpine grasslands need urgent and appropriate monitoring processes ranging from the species to the landscape level that integrates remotely-sensed and field data. View Full-Text
Keywords: colonization credit; extinction debt; fuzzy clustering; global change; high-mountain environment; land-cover; thermophilization colonization credit; extinction debt; fuzzy clustering; global change; high-mountain environment; land-cover; thermophilization
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MDPI and ACS Style

Alessi, N.; Wellstein, C.; Rocchini, D.; Midolo, G.; Oeggl, K.; Zerbe, S. Surface Tradeoffs and Elevational Shifts at the Largest Italian Glacier: A Thirty-Years Time Series of Remotely-Sensed Images. Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 134. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13010134

AMA Style

Alessi N, Wellstein C, Rocchini D, Midolo G, Oeggl K, Zerbe S. Surface Tradeoffs and Elevational Shifts at the Largest Italian Glacier: A Thirty-Years Time Series of Remotely-Sensed Images. Remote Sensing. 2021; 13(1):134. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13010134

Chicago/Turabian Style

Alessi, Nicola, Camilla Wellstein, Duccio Rocchini, Gabriele Midolo, Klaus Oeggl, and Stefan Zerbe. 2021. "Surface Tradeoffs and Elevational Shifts at the Largest Italian Glacier: A Thirty-Years Time Series of Remotely-Sensed Images" Remote Sensing 13, no. 1: 134. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13010134

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