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Study: How climate change threatens mountaintops (and clean water)

Mountains are far more than rocks. About half of the world’s drinking water filters through their high-elevation forests, plants, and soils, among other natural benefits.

Now, a new first-of-its kind study, in the journal Nature, shows how these mountain ecosystems around the globe may be threatened by climate change.

Rising temperatures over the next decades appear likely to “decouple” key nutrient cycles in mountain soils and plants, an international team of sixteen scientists reports. This is expected to disrupt the function of mountaintop ecosystems, their study suggests, as plant communities above and at treeline are thrown into turmoil faster than trees can migrate uphill in a warmer world.

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