Climate manipulations differentially affect plant population dynamics within versus beyond northern range limits
Predicting species' range shifts under future climate is a central goal of conservation ecology. Studying populations within and beyond multiple species' current ranges can help identify whether demographic responses to climate change exhibit directionality, indicative of range shifts, and whether responses are uniform across a suite of species. We quantified the demographic responses of six native perennial prairie species planted within and, for two species, beyond their northern range limits to a 3-year experimental manipulation of temperature and precipitation at three sites spanning a latitudinal climate gradient in the Pacific Northwest, USA. We estimated population growth rates (λ) using integral projection models and tested for opposing responses to climate in different demographic vital rates (demographic compensation). Where species successfully established reproductive populations, warming negatively affected λ at sites within species' current ranges. Contrarily, warming and drought positively affected λ for the two species planted beyond their northern range limits. Most species failed to establish a reproductive population at one or more sites within their current ranges, due to extremely low germination and seedling survival. We found little evidence of demographic compensation buffering populations to the climate treatments. Synthesis. These results support predictions across a suite of species that ranges will need to shift with climate change as populations within current ranges become increasingly vulnerable to decline. Species capable of dispersing beyond their leading edges may be more likely to persist, as our evidence suggests that projected changes in climate may benefit such populations. If species are unable to disperse to new habitat on their own, assisted migration may need to be considered to prevent the widespread loss of vulnerable species.
Reed, PB; Peterson, ML; Pfeifer-Meister, LE; Morris, WF; Doak, DF; Roy, BA; Johnson, BR; Bailes, GT; Nelson, AA; Bridgham, SD
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