Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Impacts of climate change on rare tropical plants expected to vary considerably

Date:
December 6, 2012
Source:
University of York
Summary:
New research has found that the impacts of climate change on rare plants in tropical mountains will vary considerably from site to site and from species to species.

Research led by the University of York has found that the impacts of climate change on rare plants in tropical mountains will vary considerably from site to site and from species to species.

While some species will react to climate change by moving upslope, others will move downslope, driven by changes in seasonality and water availability. The researchers believe that this predicted variation, together with the long-term isolation and relative climatic stability of the mountains, may shed light on historical processes behind current patterns of biodiversity.

The study, published in the journal Ecography, focussed on the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya, home to some of the oldest and most biodiverse habitats on Earth. Thousands of plant and animal species live in this chain of increasingly fragmented patches of forest, woodland and grassland, many hundreds of which are found nowhere else.

The mountains are home to two of the species in the BBC's top ten new species of the decade: the grey-faced sengi (or elephant shrew) and the Kipunji monkey -- the first new genus of monkey to be discovered since the 1920s.

In addition to being crucial for biodiversity conservation, the value of the mountains is increasingly being realised as important to the national development of Tanzania, providing food and fibres, clean water and climate stability.

The researchers used regionally downscaled climate models based on forecasts from the Max Planck Institute (Hamburg, Germany), combined with plant specimen data from Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis, USA), to show how predicted climate change could impact rare plant distributions differentially across the Eastern Arc Mountains.

Lead author Dr Phil Platts, from the University of York's Environment Department, said: "We explored the hypothesis that mountain plants will move upslope in response to climate change and found that, conversely, some species are predicted to tend downslope, despite warmer annual conditions, driven by changes in seasonality and water availability."

Although patterns of change are predicted to be complex, the authors note that their findings link with theories of past ecosystem stability.

Dr Platts said: "We considered the possibility that plants might migrate rapidly to keep pace with 21st century climate change, and found that sites with many rare species are characterised by climates significantly more likely to remain accessible to those plants in the future. This fits with the idea that similar processes in the past underlie the patterns of biodiversity and endemism (organisms unique to a certain region) that we observe today: during glacial-interglacial cycles, old evolutionary lines were able to maintain populations in sites such as the Eastern Arc, while facing extinction elsewhere."

Professor Neil Burgess, co-author and Chief Scientist at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, added a cautionary note: "For many organisms, effective dispersal has been massively curtailed by human activity, and so their future persistence is far from certain. Especially on lower slopes, climate-induced migrations will be hampered by fragmentation and degradation of the habitat mosaic."

The researchers warn of the problems of using larger-scale, global climate models to assess localised impacts of climate change. They say that two thirds of the modelled plant species are predicted to respond in different directions in different parts of their ranges, exemplifying the need for a regional focus in climate change impact assessment.

"Conservation planners, and those charged more broadly with developing climate adaption policy, are advised to take caution in inferring local patterns of change from zoomed perspectives of broad-scale models," said Dr Platts.

The study emphasises the importance of seasonality and moisture, rather than altitude and mean temperature, for determining the impacts of climate change on mountain habitats in tropical regions.

Co-author Roy Gereau, from the Missouri Botanical Garden's Africa and Madagascar Department, said: "This study demonstrates the enormous potential of carefully curated herbarium data, combined with climatological information, to elucidate fine-scale patterns of species distribution and their differential changes over time."

Future work will investigate a wide range of climate models and emissions scenarios, as well as DNA sequencing of selected plant species.

Co-author Dr Rob Marchant, from York's Environment Department, said: "What is clear from the current study is that effective conservation must operate at a landscape level, taking into account the spatial variation in how ecosystems and people have responded to previous episodes of rapid change."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of York. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Philip J. Platts, Roy E. Gereau, Neil D. Burgess, Rob Marchant. Spatial heterogeneity of climate change in an Afromontane centre of endemism. Ecography, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2012.07805.x

Cite This Page:

University of York. "Impacts of climate change on rare tropical plants expected to vary considerably." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121206094514.htm>.
University of York. (2012, December 6). Impacts of climate change on rare tropical plants expected to vary considerably. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121206094514.htm
University of York. "Impacts of climate change on rare tropical plants expected to vary considerably." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121206094514.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins