Climate Change and the Future of California’s Endemic Flora

Loarie SR, Carter BE, Hayhoe K, McMahon S, Moe R, et al. (2008) Climate Change and the Future of California’s Endemic Flora. PLoS ONE 3(6): e2502.

This paper models the effects of climate change on California’s endemic plant species. The authors explore several different climate change scenarios, and also consider the importance of dispersal. They identify regions that will likely experience increases in diversity as well as those that will probably lose species, and note that distributions for species that currently occupy the same areas were often predicted to move in opposite directions (e.g. north and towards the coast vs. south and uphill). As a result, novel communities are likely to emerge. What I found most interesting, and what is most relevant to restoration, is that dispersal had profound impacts on model predictions; when dispersal limitation was included, many species were unable to adequately track their rapidly shifting bioclimatic envelopes. The implications of this are that human-assisted migration will likely be necessary to avoid extinctions (or at least severe range contractions), especially considering the extent to which California landscapes have been fragmented.

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