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Alpine flowers give way to weeds as climate warms

Australia’s alpine grasslands will be swamped by a new wave of invasive weeds if current climate trends continue, according to Macquarie University research.

The study uses computer modelling to track the potential spread of 292 naturalised garden plants, or “sleeper weeds”, such as agapanthus, honeysuckle, verbascum, orchard grass and spiderwort. It found that 77 per cent of these garden plants will expand or consolidate their spread into Australia’s high-altitude grasslands over the next 40 years, as temperatures rise and snow cover recedes.

Researchers identified a belt of ecosystems vulnerable to increased weed invasion, stretching along the south-east of the continent from the Daintree rainforest in north Queensland, and across to the south-west tip of Western Australia. But alpine areas are the most vulnerable, with weeds likely to increase by more than 45 per cent if warming trends persist.

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