Heat-loving cacti take over territory en masse in the Alps: scientists are skeptical

These species tend to live in hot and dry climates, but now they want to settle in a Swiss ski resort.

Prickly pear cacti prefer to bask in the sun and thrive in hot, dry climates such as the Grand Canyon. However, recently these plants have been increasingly occupying territories not intended for their comfortable living – the slopes of the Swiss Alps, Science Alert writes .

The researchers warn that such “cactus relocation” could well be a dangerous warning about climate change. Note that last year the local municipality made it clear that cacti in the Swiss Alps are not welcome, and therefore it was decided to uproot them.

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Note that these plants have been known since the 18th century and now seem to be actively spreading in some alpine regions of Switzerland and Italy. In parts of Valais, researchers estimate that cacti already occupy about a third of the available surface, according to Jan Triponez, a biologist at the Valais Cantonal Conservation Service.

Despite the fact that prickly pear prefer a hot climate, they are quite capable of withstanding lower temperatures – down to -15 degrees Celsius. At the same time, they are extremely sensitive to wet weather, and therefore scientists believe that in the Swiss Alps they are attracted by the decrease in snow cover, which creates a favorable environment for them.

In the past few years, the snow cover in the Alps has been falling rapidly – today it is already present about a month less than the historical average. In fact, the situation is unprecedented “for the last six centuries.” In an earlier 2020 study, scientists concluded that snow cover in the Alps has halved over the past 50 years.

The researchers note that global warming and an increase in average temperatures have made life much more difficult on the Swiss slopes, where abandoned lifts and snowless slopes are idle in the midst of the ski season.

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