Main Narrative » Fragile Alpine Ecosystems

Alpine Invaders

By Charles J. Zimmerman

Sep 27 2019

Climate Change can negatively impact Alpine regions by making them more susceptible to invasion by aggressive weeds, which are more successful at out-competing native plants as temperatures increase. This specimen collected from Colorado documents the expanding range of invasive Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) into higher elevations. These altitudinal shifts are a direct threat to native alpine specialists which lose vital territory as cheatgrass takes over. Of even greater concern, cheatgrass dominated landscapes tend to exacerbate the frequency and intensity of wildfires, magnifying the disturbance to natural ecosystems, and causing greater risks for humans.

A Closer Look


Dainese, M., Aikio, S., Hulme, P.E., Bertoll, A., Prosser F. & Marini, L. (2017). Human disturbance and upward expansion of plants in a warming climate. Nature Climate Change 7: 577-580.

National Park Service (2019). Rocky Mountain National Park: Invasive Exotic Plants. Available at: (Accessed: 24 Sep 2019).