Evaluating the sources of potential migrant species: implications under climate change.
As changes in climate become more apparent, ecologists face the challenge of predicting species responses to the new conditions. Most forecasts are based on climate envelopes (CE), correlative approaches that project future distributions on the basis of the current climate often assuming some dispersal lag. One major caveat with this approach is that it ignores the complexity of factors other than climate that contribute to a species' distributional range. To overcome this limitation and to complement predictions based on CE modeling we carried out a transplant experiment of resident and potential-migrant species. Tree seedlings of 18 species were planted side by side from 2001 to 2004 at several locations in the Southern Appalachians and in the North Carolina Piedmont (U.S.A.). Growing seedlings under a large array of environmental conditions, including those forecasted for the next decades, allowed us to model seedling survival as a function of variables characteristic of each site, and from here we were able to make predictions on future seedling recruitment. In general, almost all species showed decreased survival in plots and years with lower soil moisture, including both residents and potential migrants, and in both locations, the Southern Appalachians and the Piedmont. The detrimental effects that anticipated arid conditions could have on seedling recruitment contradict some of the projections made by CE modeling, where many of the species tested are expected to increase in abundance or to expand their ranges. These results point out the importance of evaluating the potential sources of migrant species when modeling vegetation response to climate change, and considering that species adapted to the new climate and the local conditions may not be available in the surrounding regions.
Ibáñez, I; Clark, JS; Dietze, MC
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