Title: Assessing the ability of plants to respond to climatic change through distribution shifts
Author: Schwartz, Mark W.;
Source: In: Hom, John; Birdsey, Richard; O'Brian, Kelly, eds. Proceedings 1995 meeting of the northern global change program; Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-214. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 184-191.
Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)
Description: Predictions of future global warming suggest northward shifts of up to 800 km in the equilibrium distributions of plant species. Historical data estimating the maximum rate of tree distribution shifts (migration) suggest that most species will not keep pace with future rates of human-induced climatic change. Previous plant migrations have occurred at rates typically ranging from 15-50 km per century. A simulation model, which incorporates the effects of forest fragmentation and habitat loss, predicts maximum potential migration responses of trees may be only 1-10 km per century, or two orders of magnitude below that required to keep pace with predicted climatic warming. These predicted migration rates suggest that plants will fail to respond adequately to even modest climatic changes. Gauging the actual response of forest species to climatic change, and then appropriately managing forest resources poses several problems. First, we do not know the distribution limits of most forest species with the degree of precision to detect migration events on a 1-10 km scale. Second, many species may become vulnerable to extinction by their inability to migrate, leaving them geographically isolated from regions within their climatic tolerance. Third, while the distributions of species can be artificially expanded if climate does warm, this is not currently part of acceptable conservation management practice. Deciding whether or not to artificially enhance species ranges forces a choice between species preservation and historical community composition models for conservation. A pressing concern for forest management is to discover how climate change, anthropogenic habitat change, and doubled CO2 interact to alter forest species performance and regeneration within habitats they currently occupy. Range edges are the first place to look for key changes in these ecological responses.
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
- This publication may be available in hard copy. Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
- Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact Sharon Hobrla, firstname.lastname@example.org if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
XML: View XML
Schwartz, Mark W. 1996. Assessing the ability of plants to respond to climatic change through distribution shifts. In: Hom, John; Birdsey, Richard; O''Brian, Kelly, eds. Proceedings 1995 meeting of the northern global change program; Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-214. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 184-191.
Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility