Two-thirds of the plants native to the state of California could suffer more than an 80 percent reduction in geographic range by the end of the century, according to a recent study.
Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who contributed to the Nobel-Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, prepared high-resolution projections for California’s future climate for an ecological study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University. Their results will be published June 25 in the journal PLoS ONE.
The study tracked 5,500 native plants of California, including the renowned Coast Redwood tree, and predicted how changing climate conditions could affect their dispersal throughout the region. Hayhoe said the climate change likely will push these plants farther north or to higher elevations, in many cases reducing the range size or even causing extinctions.
“The bad news is that the climate change we may experience in the future could have this kind of drastic impact on California’s native plant species,” Hayhoe said. “Many species may have to move to cooler areas in order to survive. In some of these cases, for example, when a plant grows near the top of a mountain, there’s nowhere to go.
“But there is some good news. We can use this information to find out where we can set aside land for conservation purposes now, so these plants can be preserved.”
Because endemic species – native species not found outside the state – make up nearly half of all California's native plants, a changing climate will have a major impact on the state's unparalleled plant diversity, the researchers warn.
“Our study projects that climate change will profoundly impact the future of the native flora in California,” said David Ackerly, a professor of integrative biology at University of California, Berkeley. “The magnitude and speed of climate change today is greater than during past glacial periods, and plants are in danger of getting killed off before they can adjust their distributions to keep pace.”
The researchers caution that their study can't reliably predict the fate of specific species.
However, the trend is clear: the researchers believe that in response to rising temperatures and altered rainfall, many plants could move northward and toward the coast, following the shifts in their preferred climate, while others, primarily in the southern part of the state and in Baja California, may move up mountains into cool but highly vulnerable refugia.
Refugia are places where large numbers of the plants hit the hardest by climate change are projected to survive.
Coast Redwoods may range farther north, for example, while California oaks could disappear from central California in favor of cooler weather in the Klamath Mountains along the California-Oregon border.
Many plants may no longer be able to survive in the northern Sierra Nevada or in the Los Angeles basin, while plants of northern Baja California will migrate north into the San Diego mountains. The Central Valley will become preferred habitat for plants of the Sonoran desert.
“Across the flora, there will be winners and losers,” said first author Scott Loarie, a doctoral candidate at Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment who has worked with Ackerly and Hayhoe on the analysis for the past four years. “In nearly every scenario we explored, biodiversity suffers – especially if the flora can't disperse fast enough to keep pace with climate change.”
The authors identified several “climate-change refugia” scattered around the state. Many are in the foothills of coastal mountains such as the Santa Lucia Mountains along California's Central Coast, the Transverse Ranges separating the Central Valley from Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles. Many face pressure from encroaching development.
“There's a real potential for sheltering a large portion of the flora in these refugia if they are kept wild and if plants can reach them in time,” Loarie said.
The authors argue that it’s not too early to prepare for this eventuality by protecting corridors through which plants can move to such refugia, and maybe even assisting plants in reestablishing themselves in new regions.
“Part of me can't believe that California's flora will collapse over a period of 100 years," Ackerly said. "It's hard to comprehend the potential impacts of climate change. We haven't seen such drastic changes in the last 200 years of human history, since we have been cataloguing species.”
The journal article can be downloaded from the PLoS ONE Web site: http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0002502.Maps of California showing the range change of several species are available at
David Ackerly, professor of integrative biology at University of California, Berkeley, (510) 643-6341 or email@example.com; Scott Loarie, doctoral candidate at Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment, (707) 217-8479 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Davis | newswise
Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society
Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
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...
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...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine