The future of cold-adapted plants in changing climates: Micranthes (Saxifragaceae) as a case study

August 13th, 2018
By Gitzendanner, Matt

Stubbs, R. L., D. E. Soltis, and N. Cellinese. 2018. The future of cold-adapted plants in changing climates: Micranthes (Saxifragaceae) as a case study. Ecology and Evolution 8:7164–7177. [View on publisher’s site]

Abstract

Research has shown species undergoing range contractions and/or northward and higher elevational movements as a result of changing climates. Here, we evaluate how the distribution of a group of cold‐adapted plant species with similar evolutionary histories changes in response to warming climates. We selected 29 species of Micranthes(Saxifragaceae) representing the mountain and Arctic biomes of the Northern Hemisphere. For this analysis, 24,755 data points were input into ecological niche models to assess both present fundamental niches and predicted future ranges under climate change scenarios. Comparisons were made across the Northern Hemisphere between all cold‐adapted Micranthes, including Arctic species, montane species, and species defined as narrow endemics. Under future climate change models, 72% of the species would occupy smaller geographical areas than at present. This loss of habitat is most pronounced in Arctic species in general, but is also prevalent in species restricted to higher elevations in mountains. Additionally, narrowly endemic species restricted to high elevations were more susceptible to habitat loss than those species found at lower elevations. Using a large dataset and modeling habitat suitability at a global scale, our results empirically model the threats to cold‐adapted species as a result of warming climates. Although Arctic and alpine biomes share many underlying climate similarities, such as cold and short growing seasons, our results confirm that species in these climates have varied responses to climate change and that key abiotic variables differ between these two habitats.

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