By: Meteorologist Megan Mulford
Updated: Feb 25th 2019

Wildlife Wednesdays: Giant Mountain Lobelia

The Giant Mountain Lobelia is a native tropical alpine plant in Ethiopia that resembles a cactus-like plant. It has spiky tropical palms at the surface with a large structure that shoots upward, with some that can be over 32 feet! These plants can be found in arid, mountainous terrain in eastern Africa and have been there longer than some of the tallest mountains! The problem facing these mountain lobelia is the changing climate, as temperature warm these plants are finding it hard to adapt. 

Mountainous regions are likely to experience extreme temperature changes. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that 21st century climate warming is likely to exceed two degrees Celsius with mountainous regions to experience even warmer conditions, possibly three times the increase recorded over the 20th century. 

A scientific study on these plants about five years ago concluded that if temperatures warm as they are now, they will suffer massive reduction in range with just 3.4% of its habitat still suitable by 2080! By then, it is predicted to be confined to a much smaller space which may be too small to sustain life. The problem with these alpine species is that they are already confined to isolated mountaintops and going to even a smaller space will decrease their genetic diversity by 82%, further increasing their likelihood of extinction.

Plants similar to Giant Mountain Lobelia exist in the high-altitudes of Britain. Botanist there have already mentioned that some of their rarest Arctic-alpine plants such as Highland Saxifrage are at risk. As the climate continues to warm, they are already moving to higher altitudes to find cooler and damper conditions. Just like the lobelia plants, soon they will run out of mountain to climb, therefore becoming extinct. 



https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/19/critical-10-species-at-risk-climate-change-endangered-world


Giant Mountain Lobelia
Giant Mountain Lobelia
Highland Saxifrage
Highland Saxifrage