Prickly pear cacti, which normally appear in hot, dry climates such as the Grand Canyon, are invading the Swiss Alps in a new climate change warning
"A lover of dry and hot climates, this invasive and non-native plant is not welcome," the municipality of Fully announced as part of an uprooting drive at the end of 2022, The Guardian reports.
The plants, which have been present since the 18th century, are spreading significantly in some Alpine regions of Switzerland and Italy.
Yann Triponez, a biologist who works in the canton of Valais' nature protection service, said that "in some parts of Valais, we estimate that the cacti can occupy one-third of the available surface," per The Guardian.
Whilst these plants prefer hot climates, they can cope in temperatures as low as -15 Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), botanist Peter Oliver Baumgartner told The Guardian.
De Martigny à Brigue, ces cactus originaires des USA colonisent la plaine du Rhône à la faveur du changement climatique. Les biologistes s'inquiètent de leur impact sur les écosystèmes. 🌵— Romain Boisset (@RomainBoisset) December 23, 2022
Reportage en Valais dans le @19h30RTS @RTSinfo pic.twitter.com/U3ol7xbC3l
What they don't like, he said, is wet weather. So, diminishing snow cover provides a fertile environment for them to thrive.
Snow cover in the Alps has been plummeting. It now is present for about a month less than historical averages, a situation "unprecedented in the last six centuries," a recent study published in Nature Climate Change said, per The Guardian. Another study said the number of days where there is snow cover under 2,600 feet has halved since 1970.
Increasing temperatures have made life on the Swiss slopes difficult in recent years, highlighted by a series of photos showing abandoned ski lifts and snowless slopes at the height of ski season.
In the summer of 2022, thawing glaciers in the Swiss Alps revealed two sets of human remains, as well as the wreckage of a 1968 plane crash that had been frozen beneath snow and ice, Insider's Paola Rosa-Aquino reported.
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