Climate change response of vegetation across climatic zones in Italy
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Italy represents a good model region for assessing vegetation responses to changing climate across a broad climatic range, from Mediterranean warm-dry climate to alpine cold-humid climate. We reviewed results of studies analysing the response of natural vegetation to climate change in Italy, published until July 2016 in peer-reviewed journals. Evidence provided by these studies shows that climate warming is expected overall to enhance plant growth in Italy, but the magnitude of growth stimulation will probably vary among climatic zones, with stronger effects in the cold regions of the alpine climatic zone. Drought, induced by reduced precipitation and/or increased evapotranspiration, can override the positive effects of higher temperatures on plant growth, not only in the Mediterranean warm-dry climatic zone but also in the less dry sub-Mediterranean climatic zone and even in the temperate one. Our review highlighted 2 major research gaps to which future research should be directed. First, there is poor knowledge of how species composition will change in response to changing climate and how this will affect ecosystem functioning in Mediterranean to temperate ecosystems. Second, there is poor knowledge of possible interactions between climate-induced vegetation changes and dynamic processes related to land-use changes.
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