May 17, 2017

Divergence of species responses to climate change

Songlin Fei, Johanna M. Desprez, Kevin M. Potter, Insu Jo, Jonathan A. Knott, Christopher M. Oswalt
Science Advances
  • States that climate change can have profound impacts on biodiversity and the sustainability of many ecosystems
  • Analyzes abundance data over time for 86 tree species/groups across the eastern United States spanning the last three decades
  • Shows that more tree species have experienced a westward shift (73%) than a poleward shift (62%) in their abundance, a trend that is stronger for saplings than adult trees
  • Finds the observed shifts are primarily due to the changes of subpopulation abundances in the leading edges and are significantly associated with changes in moisture availability and successional processes
  • Finds these spatial shifts are associated with species that have similar traits (drought tolerance, wood density, and seed weight) and evolutionary histories (most angiosperms shifted westward and most gymnosperms shifted poleward)
  • Our results indicate that changes in moisture availability have stronger near-term impacts on vegetation dynamics than changes in temperature
  • Concludes that the divergent responses to climate change by trait- and phylogenetic-specific groups could lead to changes in composition of forest ecosystems, putting the resilience and sustainability of various forest ecosystems in question