Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers investigate impacts of climate change on rare tropical plants

07.12.2012
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."

Caron Lett | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.york.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>