Researchers have found that mountain ranges may be a safer place to live during a change in climatic condition. During a study by a team of Swiss researchers who worked on projected effects of climatic changes on plants in the Alpine ranges, it was found that the diverse habitat in the mountain ranges offer 'refuge habitats' to species under threat.

The team led by Daniel Scherrer and Christian Körner from the University of Basel, Switzerland studied plants for over two seasons in the high altitude Swiss Central Alps. A high resolution infrared camera and hundreds of soil sensors were used to monitor the exact temperature experienced by alpine plants.

Körner said, "In this study we examined if different vegetation types and plant species occur under different micro-habitat temperatures. We also estimated the potential loss and shift in abundance of micro-habitat temperatures under a warming climate scenario."

Explaining further Scherrer said, “Comparing various slopes, the study made it obvious that slope exposure and ruggedness of terrain produce a broad spectrum of life conditions not seen over similar areas in forests or in the forelands and plains,". He added, “While it was known from measurements with thermometers that plant and air temperatures can differ substantially in alpine terrain, the high degree of sustained thermal contrasts among habitats still came as a surprise." In current climatic conditions, vegetation in the lower alpine areas warms up sharply during sunny weather, but when it’s cloudy, that warmth remains stored in the soil and making nights cozier for roots in many places.

Körner said, “"We found that the occurrences of plant species across these mosaics of warmth match with their known temperature preferences. This means that rugged alpine terrain offers refuge habitats - or at least stepping stones to these - at short distance, for both small plants and animals that prefer cool life conditions." However, researchers also explained that the weather station data is not a suitable basis for projecting future life conditions in such high altitude terrain.

Scherrer said, “We suggest that alpine terrain is, for the majority of species a much 'safer' place to live under conditions of climate warming, compared to flat terrain, which offers no short-distance escapes from the changing temperatures,". He added, "It is known from earlier geological periods that mountains were always important for survival of species during periods of climatic change such as in glacial cycles, because of their 'habitat diversity,'" Körner said,"Mountains are therefore particularly important areas for the conservation of biodiversity in a given region under climatic change and thus deserve particular protection."